The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued the Trump administration Tuesday in order to block new restrictions intended to make it more difficult for Central Americans to claim asylum in the United States,
The suit, filed in federal court in California, challenges a new administration rule that would prohibit migrants who have resided or "transited en route" in a third country from seeking asylum in the US. Since most migrants from Central America travel through Mexico, it would prevent those people from making asylum claims.
The new asylum procedures are "effective immediately" and asylum officers are responsible for conducting field training on the new measures within a week, according to an internal memo sent to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services workforce Monday and confirmed to CNN by two sources who read the memo.
In the memo sent to USCIS personnel, asylum chief John Lafferty wrote that the agency was "once again being asked to adapt, and to do so with very little time to train and prepare," according to a source who received the memo.
"If I didn't know that we have some of the most dedicated, adaptable, and most talented public servants presently serving in the federal government, I would be concerned about being able to implement these changes on such short notice," Lafferty added.
The Los Angeles Times first reported on the memo and two sources familiar with the memo confirmed its accuracy to CNN.
Many questions on the specifics of implementation remained unanswered as of Tuesday.
Migrants will generally be deported to their country of nationality based on the new rule, according to a source familiar with the implementation. This assumes the migrant does not qualify for asylum under the new guidance and has been issued an order of removal pursuant to the expedited removal process or by an immigration judge.
The very rare exceptions include an asylum seeker whose claim was denied after applying for protection in a country, if someone has been trafficked and if someone transited through a country that did not sign one of the major international treaties on refugees.
"This new rule is very perplexing to the workforce because it runs counter to the law and regulations that we have faithfully been carrying out," said Michael Knowles, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1924. "It will result in more chaos, more work, more litigation and we believe it will result in the return of many individuals to situations where their lives or their freedom are in great danger and that will be on us."
"This is the Trump administration's most extreme run at an asylum ban yet. It clearly violates domestic and international law, and cannot stand," said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt.
As of Tuesday, no guidance had been sent to the US Border Patrol workforce on implementation, according to an agency source.
It appeared there would be no change in agent duties as of now, which would mean agents would continue to refer cases to USCIS or an immigration judge, who would then be responsible for determining asylum eligibility.
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