Maine has joined 21 other states in asking the Trump administration to rescind a new rule that would make it more difficult for migrants entering the country at the southern border to seek asylum, state Attorney General Aaron Frey announced Thursday.

Under the rule, individuals entering the United States at the southern border will no longer be able to seek asylum unless they applied for and were denied protection in at least one country that they traveled through to get here, Frey said.

“This proposed rule is part of a series of attempts by the federal government to weaken the asylum process,” Frey said in a statement. “The proposal violates two federal laws and is contrary to our values. Individuals fleeing dangerous circumstances, who want to live and work in this country should be allowed to seek asylum here and not be arbitrarily blocked from doing so.”

Aaron Frey Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press file photo


The coalition, led by the attorneys general in Massachusetts and California, filed a letter of opposition Thursday with the federal Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, the agencies that adopted the new rule on July 16, according to the Federal Register. Thursday was the deadline for public comments to be submitted.

“Asylum seekers coming through the southern border will be subject to unnecessary trauma and peril due to the rule. By requiring that asylum seekers seek protection in the countries through which they travel, namely Mexico or Guatemala, the rule puts vulnerable populations at risk for further persecution in those countries and ignores those countries’ lack of fair and functioning asylum systems,” the attorneys general state  in their Aug. 15 letter. “Ultimately, this will lead to more immigrants staying in the shadows, as well as bona fide seekers being denied the United States’ protection.”


The coalition of states maintains that the rule violates both the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Under the INA, asylum protections were built into the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention – a United Nations multi-lateral treaty – an agreement that sought to mitigate some of the horrors refugees experienced during and after World War II.

Frey said that in promulgating the rule, the Trump Administration failed to provide adequate notice or to give an explanation for it, a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Frey said the rule will negatively impact unaccompanied children, members of the LGBTQ community and will endanger female asylum seekers.

The states named in the opposition letter said they signed on because each year they welcome thousands of potential asylees who have suffered persecution in their home countries.

The letter was signed by attorneys generals in Maine, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.


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