Last July, the Trump administration issued a rule requiring people who need asylum to ask for it in Mexico before asking for it in the U.S. Only those who were turned down by Mexico would be allowed to apply for asylum here.
The government rightly claimed that it can deny U.S. asylum to people who are already “firmly settled” in a safe country before they reach the U.S.
Days after the rule was announced, immigration advocates sued the government to stop it. A federal district court judge found the rule was unlawful and issued a nationwide injunction against it. That injunction was briefly limited to California and Arizona,
The immigration advocates argued that it simply isn’t safe for people to apply for asylum in Mexico. Asking people to seek asylum in the countries they travel through on their way to the U.S. might seem reasonable, but in fact it exposes desperate people to harm in those counties, including Mexico. Many are forced by Mexican authorities to return to their home countries, where they are at risk of persecution.
Moreover, most of the people targeted by the rule are living in tent cities just south of the U.S. border. They hardly qualify as “firmly settled” in Mexico.
The immigration advocates brought forward evidence that approximately 69% of asylum seekers have suffered violence traveling through Mexico, and 31% of female asylum seekers suffered sexual abuse. Furthermore, the obstacles to accessing asylum in Mexico are substantial.
Now, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that the Trump administration’s rule is inconsistent with the laws the government said it was based on.
It is true that the Immigration and Naturalization Act allows the U.S. to reject asylum claims by those firmly settled in safe countries, but Mexico is not a safe country. To be considered a safe country, Mexico would have to have a signed agreement with the U.S. that promised asylum seekers safety and a “full and fair” asylum process. The U.S. and Mexico, however, have not signed such an agreement.
The Ninth Circuit also found that these immigrants have not firmly settled in Mexico because they haven’t received any resettlement offer from Mexico and have no ties to Mexico. And, the idea that they are choosing the most advantageous country for their asylum claims has no bearing on whether those claims are valid.
The Ninth Circuit held that the rule cannot be implemented. It is permanently blocked unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses this holding.
For more information about asylum in the U.S., contact Yew Immigration Law Group. Alison Yew is a certified specialist in immigration law.