New Trump Administration Rule Will Allow U.S. To Force Asylum Seekers To Seek Refuge In Countries With Level 3 Travel Warnings

The Trump administration is on track to solidify new rules this week that would allow it to force asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. border to seek refuge in other countries instead.

The Trump administration is expected to publish its measure allowing government officials to send asylum seekers to countries the U.S. has negotiated bilateral asylum agreements with in the Federal Register on Tuesday, November 19.

While the Trump administration had previously argued that asylum seekers should be expected to seek refuge in the first "safe" country they arrive in, the new regulation seeks to allow the government to send asylum seekers to participating countries even if asylum seekers did not transit through them to get to the U.S., according to Reuters.

Among the countries that the U.S. has recently signed "Safe Third Country" agreements with are Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the three Central American nations collectively known as the "Northern Triangle" that thousands of asylum-seeking families have fled in their bid to reach the U.S. border.

In its own travel guidance for American citizens, the U.S. State Department warns nationals to "reconsider travel" to Honduras, with the Central American country being listed with a "level 3" travel advisory.

"Violent crime, such as homicide and armed robbery, is common," the State Department's website states. "Violent gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, rape, and narcotics and human trafficking is widespread," it says, before warning that local police and emergency services also "lack sufficient resources to respond effectively to serious crime."

Meanwhile, the State Department downgraded its advisory for El Salvador from a similar level 3 ranking to a level 2 just days after signing its safe third country deal with the nation's leadership.

Despite the level 2 travel advisory, the State Department similarly warns travelers that "violent crime, such as murder, assault, rape and armed robbery, is common" in El Salvador, while gang activity, including extortion and arms trafficking is also widespread.

Guatemala is also accompanied with a level 2 travel warning. However, as of February 28, 2019, at least six areas were listed as level 3 regions due to violent crime, including robbery and murder, being common.

Despite its own travel warnings for American citizens, the Trump administration has argued that all three countries should be considered safe destinations for asylum seekers.

Already, the U.S. has a bilateral asylum agreement with Canada, which was negotiated in 2004.

The government's new regulation is also expected to allow the U.S. to sign similar deals with other countries, raising questions around which other nations the Trump administration might deem "safe" for asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution.

As the document outlining the new rule, which was released on Monday for public inspection, states, asylum seekers would be given the "opportunity" to "establish that it would be 'more likely than not' that [their] life or freedom would be threatened in the third country on account of a protected ground or that [they] would be tortured in the third country."

If their fears are determined to be credible, asylum seekers will not be removed to the "safe third country."

Under the Trump administration, however, immigration advocates have warned that asylum seekers have faced growing scrutiny in their "credible fear" interviews.

In one lawsuit reported on by The Guardian, plaintiffs alleged that the number of women and children at a family detention center in Texas who passed their first interviews with asylum officers had plunged from 97 percent to less than 10 percent.

Those who do not pass could be deported from the U.S. within a matter of days.

Asylum seeker
A Central American migrant wrapped in a U.S. flag looks at the almost dry riverbed of the Tijuana River near the El Chaparral border crossing near the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on November 25, 2018. The Trump administration is set to roll out plans to send asylum seekers to other countries the U.S. deems 'safe' places to seek refuge. GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty