Attorney General Becerra, Multistate Coalition Continue Opposition to Trump Administration Rule Restricting Asylum Access

Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today led a multistate coalition in opposition to the Trump Administration’s rule illegally limiting access to the asylum process. Under the rule, individuals entering the United States at the southern border, except in limited circumstances, are no longer able to seek asylum unless they applied for and were denied protection in at least one country they transited through prior to their arrival. In an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Barr, the attorneys general urge the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to uphold the district court’s ruling on the preliminary injunction.

“Again and again, the Trump Administration proffers sloppy reasoning at best for decisions that have lasting consequences on the lives of real people,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Countless people are being put at risk by a rule that runs afoul of one of our core principles—welcoming homeless refugees to our shores. This rule is unreasonable and disturbingly callous. We’re going to do everything we can to stand up for the rights of those seeking refuge from persecution and violence.”

“The Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to ban refugees from seeking asylum in the United States are cruel, immoral, and illegal,” said Attorney General Healey. “We are filing this brief in opposition to this unlawful attempt by the Administration to close the door of this country to refugees.”

In the brief, the coalition maintains that the rule significantly departs from core values enshrined in federal law and harms asylum-seekers and the states that welcome them. The rule forces asylum-seekers to go through what could amount to a fruitless asylum process in a potentially dangerous third country to even have a chance of being eligible for asylum in the United States. This unnecessarily subjects asylum-seekers to peril and trauma throughout the process and could encourage people to attempt risky journeys to enter the United States undetected in an effort to flee persecution. Moreover, the rule will have a particularly negative effect on unaccompanied children, LGBTQ applicants, and women asylum-seekers, for whom applying for asylum in a third country is extremely perilous. For example, two-thirds of LGBTQ Central American asylum-seekers reportedly suffered sexual violence while transiting through Mexico and, in Guatemala, children are frequently targets of recruitment by criminal gangs. In addition, the rule will cause state agencies and non-profits to divert resources to address the added trauma asylum-seekers will suffer because of precarious conditions in third countries and will force states to lose out on the economic contributions of those who might otherwise have been welcomed to the country. Finally, in promulgating the rule, the Trump Administration failed to provide adequate notice, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Attorney General Becerra remains committed to safeguarding the human rights of people in California and around the country. In August, Attorney General Becerra co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to rescind the “third country asylum rule.” Last month, the Attorney General helped secure a preliminary injunction halting the Trump Administration’s vast expansion of the use of expedited removal, which would have allowed for certain individuals to be deported without the due process protections afforded in normal removal proceedings. The Attorney General also filed a lawsuit in opposition to a rule circumventing protections for children under the Flores Settlement Agreement, which was permanently blocked by a federal court in September.

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the brief is available here. In a September decision, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed a nationwide preliminary injunction pending subsequent proceedings that are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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