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A US border patrol agent walks along the border fence separating Mexico from the United States near Calexico, California, U.S. February 8, 2017. © 2017 Reuters
(Washington, DC) – The interim final rule to limit asylum proposed on November 8, 2018, by the Trump Administration is the latest attempt to shut American doors to people fleeing persecution and violence, Human Rights Watch said today.
“US law is crystal clear that asylum seekers have the right to lodge asylum claims regardless of where they enter the country, and President Trump cannot change the law on a whim,” said Bill Frelick, Refugee Rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The US government should absolutely be encouraging the safe, orderly and efficient processing of asylum claims at ports of entry, but the way to do that is by providing sufficient resources to receive and process asylum seekers in a fair and humane manner. Under current practice, border agents are repeatedly turning asylum-seekers away and telling them to come back another day.”
International refugee law says that asylum seekers have the right to lodge asylum claims irrespective of illegal entry or presence, which US asylum law affirms by saying, “any alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States (whether or not at a designated port of arrival…) irrespective of such aliens status, may apply for asylum.”
The interim final rule asserts that the administration can effect these changes under its regulatory authority, but in fact the rule represents an unlawful attempt to change the letter of the statute by regulation. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA 208(b)(2)(C)) unambiguously states that ineligibility grounds for asylum established by regulation must be “consistent with” section 208 of the INA, which explicitly says that aliens may lodge asylum claims “not at a designated port of entry.”
“This interim regulation is not only inconsistent with the letter of the law, but flatly contradicts it,” Frelick said.

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