Adding to an already long list of multi-state legal challenges against the Trump administration, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is joining a legal challenge against a rule change that makes it more difficult for immigrants to claim asylum when entering the U.S.
The change being proposed would require immigrants heading to the U.S. to apply for asylum in another country prior to arriving at the border.
“Illegal aliens will no longer get a free pass into our country by lodging meritless claims in seeking asylum,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Instead, migrants seeking asylum will have to present themselves lawfully at a port of entry.”
Donovan, who has been an outspoken critic of the president and a champion of so-called social justice causes, is calling the proposed rule change an unnecessary hurdle against those leaving dangerous countries.
“Providing refuge to those fleeing danger is a time-honored American value,” Donovan said in a news release. “Children and families deserve a fair chance to seek asylum under the laws Congress has enacted. The administration cannot use the rulemaking process to strip away those rights and place people in danger.”
The lawsuit, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Barr, is being brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. In an amicus brief in support of that lawsuit, multiple attorneys general say they want the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to uphold the district court’s decision to enter a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the rule.
According to Donovan and the other attorneys general filing the amicus brief, the Trump administration’s rule change departs from the core values that underly federal law. They maintain that asylum seekers will face unnecessary risks if they must seek asylum first in another country. The brief also says the rule change will especially endanger unaccompanied children, the LGBT community, and women asylum seekers.
A copy of the amicus brief can be read here.
Other states involved in the legal challenge include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Conservative media outlets such as the New York Post have praised the Trump administration effort.
“If migrants are already safe in another country, why shouldn’t they apply for asylum there before coming to the United States and applying here?” the Post editorial board wrote in July. “That’s the perfectly sound logic behind a rule Team Trump put in place Monday: Migrants who pass through another country will be ineligible for US asylum unless they’ve first sought it, unsuccessfully, in that third country.”
According to a Washington Times report, there has been “rampant fraud and abuse” in the asylum processing system. As of early last year, 31,000 asylum cases were logjammed as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services worked to distinguish legitimate asylum claims from non-legitimate claims.
USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said delays in the processing of applications “can be exploited and used to undermine national security and the integrity of the asylum system.”
According to a White House statement on the rule change, immigration workers are overwhelmed by the flood of migrants approaching at the border.
“Our overwhelmed asylum system is contributing to this growing crisis by encouraging aliens with meritless claims to illegally cross our border, claim ‘credible fear,’ and then be released,” it states.
Asylum claims from border crossers have increased 10-fold since 2013. Most of the claims are by immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This area is also known as “the Northern Triangle.”
“Most migrants from the Northern Triangle do not have valid asylum claims, but they are released into the country because our asylum system has become overwhelmed,” the statement from the White House reads. … Nearly two-thirds of aliens who claim credible fear are from the Northern Triangle.”
Last year, almost half of the cases involving aliens who claimed credible fear from where they came eventually failed to show up for a hearing or complete their application process for asylum.