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Trump admin proposes rule to refuse refugees based on COVID-19

A migrant makes a phone call at a shelter in Matamoros, Mexico, on January 25, 2019. Some at the shelter were living in the United States and deported after the Trump administration said it would begin sending asylum-seekers back to their native countries. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
A migrant makes a phone call at a shelter in Matamoros, Mexico, on January 25, 2019. Some at the shelter were living in the United States and deported after the Trump administration said it would begin sending asylum-seekers back to their native countries. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

July 9 (UPI) -- The Trump administration is planning a new rule that cites danger from the coronavirus pandemic as justification for denying immigrants asylum in the United States.

The proposed rule from the Homeland Security and Justice departments was published in the Federal Register on Thursday and would allow the administration to block immigrants based on "potential international threat from the spread of the pandemic."

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The threat determination would be made at what is typically the first interview in the application process, and not in immigration court.

"The proposed rule also would provide that this application of the statutory bars to eligibility for asylum and withholding of removal will be effectuated at the credible fear screening stage for aliens in expedited removal proceedings in order to streamline the protection review process and minimize the spread and possible introduction into the United States of communicable and widespread disease," the proposed rule states.

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In the Federal Register, the public will be able to comment on the proposed rule for 30 days before it takes effect.

Jennifer Minear, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in a statement the new rule is "entirely unnecessary" and "unjustified."

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"The Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies already have the tools they need to keep our nation safe from anyone who might have a serious communicable disease, including stringent immigration screening procedures and laws that protect against public health risks," she said.

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Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said the rule would continue to scapegoat immigrants.

"The proposal is simply a pretext to implement a drastic change to our immigration system that the administration has sought from day one -- the elimination of asylum in the United States," Werlin said. "How we treat vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic will define our true character as a nation for years to come."

Migrants in Mexico: Journey to the U.S. border

Migrants ride an inflatable raft on the Suchiate River from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, while a smuggler waits for their arrival in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico on Thursday. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

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