- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Urges Trump Administration to Withdraw Rule Severely Limiting Asylum for Migrants
Boston — Attorney General Maura Healey today co-led a group of 20 attorneys general in urging the Trump Administration to withdraw a rule that would illegally bar access to the asylum process for thousands of migrants seeking protection in the United States.
In the letter, sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice, the attorneys general write that the Administration’s new rule would inflict unnecessary harm on asylum seekers by barring asylum for anyone who travels through another country on their way to the United States unless they have been denied asylum in that country. The attorneys general argue the countries through which many of these asylum seekers are traveling, Guatemala and Mexico, lack fair and functioning asylum systems. They contend this rule, which has already been preliminary enjoined by a federal court, will only lead to more dangerous and unauthorized border crossings by limiting the legal channels through which migrants can present their asylum claims at the U.S. border.
“The Trump Administration has done everything possible to deny access to asylum and make life miserable for people seeking refuge in the United States,” said AG Healey. “This new rule is yet another arbitrary and illegal attempt to inflict unnecessary harm on refugees, and we urge the Administration to withdraw it.”
The attorneys general argue that the new rule violates longstanding immigration laws that allow any foreign national to apply for asylum upon their arrival in the U.S. These asylum protections have been in place for decades and were built upon the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which sought to mitigate the horrors visited upon refugees during and after World War II.
According to the letter, the new rule will have a particularly negative effect on unaccompanied children, women, and LGBTQ asylum seekers who will face dangerous conditions while attempting to apply for asylum in countries such as Mexico and Guatemala. These countries are particularly ill-equipped to provide humanitarian protections and process the claims of thousands of migrants seeking asylum. Guatemala, for example, has only 12 officials to work on asylum cases, and three staff members to interview asylum applicants, while Mexico has insufficient access to legal counsel and inaccessible asylum offices located far from the U.S. border. The attorneys general write that requesting protection in Mexico and Guatemala would be a “fruitless” endeavor for asylum seekers, and only put them more at risk of harm due to prolonged detention in poor conditions or victimization by criminal groups that target migrants.
In July 2019, AG Healey co-led a coalition of 20 attorneys general on a brief urging protections for children held in inhumane conditions at the border. In February 2019, AG Healey joined 19 attorneys general in filing a brief challenging the Trump Administration’s “turnback policy,” which effectively halted the asylum process at the southern border for thousands of people waiting to present their claims. In June 2018, AG Healey co-led a coalition of 18 states in suing the Trump Administration over its illegal policy of forcibly separating families at the southern border. AG Healey has also joined amicus briefs in opposition to Administration policies that required asylum-seekers to present their claims at a port of entry and blocked asylum claims based on gang and domestic violence.
AG Healey in co-led today’s filing with the attorney general from California, and was joined by Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
This matter is being handled by Chief Abby Taylor of the AG’s Civil Rights Division.