A new rule that fundamentally changes US asylum law and would dramatically reduce the number of migrants who can apply at the border goes into effect Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports. An immediate legal challenge is expected. The new rule, published in the Federal Register, stipulates that any migrant who passes through another country before arriving at the US border must seek asylum there first instead of in the US. For example, migrants from Honduras or El Salvador who walk north to the US border and pass through Guatemala and Mexico would be ineligible to apply for asylum in the US, per the Wall Street Journal. Instead, they must apply in Guatemala or Mexico. The upshot of the new rule is that, with limited exceptions, only people from Mexico could apply for US asylum, and they make up a small number of current applicants.
The Trump administration maintains that it is fully within its rights to make such a rule, but the ACLU disagrees. "The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger," says Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the organization's immigrants’ rights program. "This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue.” The administration, however, says the asylum system—designed to provide protection to those facing persecution in their home countries—is being abused by people making false claims, per the New York Times. Under the new rule, if people were denied asylum by the first country, they could then apply in the US. It would not affect migrants who already are in the system, only new arrivals. (Read more asylum seeker stories.)