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Immigration

Justice Department Announces Rule to Bar Some Criminal Illegal Immigrants from Asylum

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations officers execute criminal search warrants and arrest more than 100 company employees on federal immigration violations at a trailer manufacturing business in Sumner, Texas, August 28, 2018. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Handout via Reuters )

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security on Tuesday announced new regulations barring illegal immigrants who have committed certain crimes from obtaining asylum in the U.S., part of the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to prevent bad actors from gaining entrance to the country.

“To ensure that criminal aliens cannot obtain this discretionary benefit, the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security have exercised their regulatory authority to limit eligibility for asylum for aliens who have engaged in specified categories of criminal behavior,” the DOJ said in a statement.

Under the new rule, immigrants who are convicted felons, have been convicted of smuggling or harboring other illegal immigrants or reentering the country illegally, committed certain drunk driving offenses, committed a crime involving gangs, received government benefits illegally, committed drug trafficking or possession offenses, or committed offenses related to false identification will not be eligible for asylum.

Notably, immigrants who have committed certain domestic violence offenses, such as battery or extreme cruelty, will also be barred from asylum even if they were not convicted.

Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli said Tuesday on a call with reporters that the rule aims to “bring some sanity to the asylum system and our legal immigration system” and to “get the charlatans out of the system and preserve it for those who are deserving of America’s tremendous generosity.”

Cuccinelli said that he expects the rule to help “speed the process along” of vetting asylum seekers, potentially easing the asylum program’s current backlog of over a million cases.

Asylum seekers who are currently waiting on their cases in the U.S. but are now ineligible for asylum under the new rule “will be deported” when their cases come up, Cucinelli said.

The new rule will take effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

Last year, the administration attempted to deny asylum to all migrants who failed to enter the U.S. through a legal port of entry but that policy was struck down by more than one federal judge, who said it was “inconsistent with” the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

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