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Trump administration is drafting a plan to dramatically change the U.S. asylum system

Yet another attack on asylum seekers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. CREDIT: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. CREDIT: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering a plan to completely alter U.S. asylum policy, according to a recent report by Vox.

The plan, created under the watchful eye of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, would effectively bar people from receiving asylum if they entered the country between ports of entry. Additionally, the regulation would codify an opinion written by Sessions in June that sought to restrict asylum for victims of domestic and gang violence.

Asylum in the U.S. has been under attack since the Trump administration began making seismic changes to the country’s immigration policies. This new DOJ plan, however, may be the biggest and most consequential change yet. As a source described to Vox, the regulation would be “the most severe restrictions on asylum since at least 1965.”

Penalizing asylum-seekers for entering the country “the wrong way” is consequential for a number reasons — most importantly because it is becoming increasingly complicated for immigrants to enter “the right way.”

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Immigrants arriving at ports of entry are being repeatedly turned away and asked to come back at a later date. Under the Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have employed a new strategy of staking out international bridges to tell Central American asylum seekers they cannot proceed to the port because they are at capacity.

The Intercept has reported that the number of asylum seekers being met by CBP agents at ports of entry and turned away illegally could number in the thousands. Many of those being turned away, according to reporters, have followed the rules to  laid out by Sessions to enter legally, but to no avail. This is despite the fact the government has a legal obligation to allow people to seek asylum at official crossings like a port of entry.

Many people, however, are fleeing dangerous circumstances and want to claim asylum in the U.S. but are unable to make it to a port of entry for a number of reasons — primarily because the journey to a port is oftentimes lengthy and dangerous, but also because many of them simply don’t know where these ports are located.

Discriminating against asylum seekers at the border for “illegal entry” could potentially violate a multilateral treaty from 1951 that defines who is a refugee and who can be granted asylum.

According to the treaty, countries involved “shall not impose penalties on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened.”