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  • Central American migrants are seen inside an enclosure where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, U.S. March 27, 2019.

    Central American migrants are seen inside an enclosure where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, U.S. March 27, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 November 2019

The proposal comes as an ongoing bid to curve applications and migration mostly from Central America since the Trump administration seeks to discourage and make asylum claims and cases more difficult. 

The United States government proposed a new regulation Wednesday that would ban asylum seekers from applying for a work permit if they entered the U.S. without authorization.

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Honduras Signs Safe Third Country-Type Deal with US

“Asylum law explicitly permits applications regardless of the manner of entry,” an asylum officer told BuzzFeed, adding that “to single out those asylum seekers who couldn't afford a visa and prohibit them from obtaining lawful employment is cruel and has no basis in the law.”

The proposal comes as an ongoing bid to curve applications and migration mostly from Central America since the Trump administration seeks to discourage and make asylum claims and cases more difficult. 

“These changes would leave more asylum-seekers dependent, vulnerable to exploitation, and in the shadows, which is exactly where the regime wants them,” migration attorney based in Tennessee, Andrew Free said.

The regulation would also allow migration authorities to reject an asylum application or work permit request made by migrants who miss related immigration appointments or if they have been convicted of any federal or state felony and certain other crimes.

“Employment authorization ensures asylum-seekers the ability to support themselves while the government processes their claims. It often means access to a temporary driver's license that has a huge liberating impact in a ton of car-centric places,” the expert told BuzzFeed.

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is a binding document for all the United Nations members, a country like the U.S. can refuse to grant refuge to asylum seekers and send them to a country that is considered "safe" to their lives. Canada struck a pact of those characteristics back in 2002.

President Donald Trump made Guatemala (July 26), El Salvador (Sept. 20) and Honduras (Sept. 25) sign safe-third country-type deals to force asylum-seekers who travel through the country to first seek protection there, effectively creating a barrier along the entire Central American region.

These agreements made with right-wing governments of the three Central American countries will complement Trump's anti-migrant rule that would curtail asylum applications at the U.S.-Mexico border, requiring migrants to first attempt international protection in a safe third country, essentially creating a barrier to curb migration from the area, known as the Northern Triangle.

With these arrangments the North American nation can now shift the burden onto other countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala or Mexico, as asylum hearings can take months or even years. 

In September, the U.S. government rolled out a proposal to eliminate a 30-day deadline for processing work permit requests by asylum seekers. That plan could slow down the timeline to approve or deny an asylum application.

Human rights organizations and migration advocates argue that sending people seeking asylum back to the region where they fled, even if not to their home country, violates international commitments meant to prevent vulnerable migrants from being returned to danger, especially to countries known for drug and gang-related violence. 

To add even more pressure, the administration last week issued a proposed rule that would add a US$50 fee to certain asylum applications, the first time the country has charged for such requests.

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