The Trump administration issued a new guidance Wednesday instructing border officials to automatically reject the applications of asylum seekers who claim they're seeking refuge in the U.S. based on fear of domestic abuse and gang violence. The instruction means that survivors won't even have the chance to argue their case before an immigration court.
The move comes just a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an order forcing immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most survivors of gang and domestic violence. Advocates have said that denying asylum to survivors will be a death sentence for many women and their families, who are fleeing violence at the hands of their intimate partners and gangs. The move will explicitly hurt Latin American migrants. According to the 2016 Small Arms Survey analysis of violent deaths, three regions with the highest femicide rates in the world are Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.
Per U.S. and international law, people can claim asylum out of fear of being persecuted in their home countries based on their race, political opinion, nationality, religion, or belonging to a particular social group. Until Sessions' order in June, it was precedent to consider domestic violence survivors as members of a particular social group.
Wednesday's guidance also instructs immigration officials to weigh an asylum seeker's claim against whether they crossed the border legally or illegally. If it's the latter, their requests could be denied. But according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, people can claim asylum even if they cross into the country illegally.
"To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States," the USCIS website reads. "You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status."
The guidance is part of President Trump's plan to completely revamp the U.S. immigration system. For the so-called pro-life administration, in order to achieve that, it's necessary to forcibly separate thousands of children from their families without a reunification plan in place and to automatically reject the asylum claims of domestic violence survivors, even while knowing their return to their home countries could possibly end in their death.