With a go-ahead from the US Supreme Court, the Trump administration Thursday began enforcing a radical new rule that would deny asylum to nearly all migrants arriving at the southern border—a move that spread despair among those fleeing poverty and violence in their homelands. A rep for the Homeland Security agency that manages asylum cases said the policy will be retroactive to July 16, when the rule was announced, the AP reports. The new policy would deny asylum to anyone at the US-Mexico border who passes through another country on the way to the US without first seeking asylum there. Late Wednesday, the high court cleared the way for the administration to enforce it while legal challenges move forward. Acting US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan called it a "big victory" in the administration's attempt to curb the flow of migrants.
The new rule on asylum represents a shift in decades of US policy. Migrants who make their way to the US overland from places like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador would be largely ineligible for asylum, along with people from Africa, Asia and South America who try to get in by way of the US-Mexican border. "Our Supreme Court is sentencing people to death. There are no safeguards, no institutions to stop this cruelty," the immigration-assistance group Al Otro Lado said in a statement. The Mexican government likewise called the high court's action "astonishing." The effects of the new policy could fall heavily on Mexico, leaving the country with tens of thousands of poor and desperate migrants with no hope of getting into the US. (More on how the new rule will work, plus stories of migrants who will be affected, here.)