Refugee assistance groups sue to challenge new asylum restriction rule

Four refugee assistance groups sued the administration of President Donald Trump in federal court in San Francisco Tuesday to challenge a new rule that severely restricts asylum applications.

The rule, announced by U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, prohibits asylum seekers who have passed through another country from applying for U.S. asylum unless they sought and were refused asylum in the transit country. The measure went into effect Tuesday.

The lawsuit led by the Berkeley-based East Bay Sanctuary Covenant claims the rule violates the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows people physically present in the U.S. to apply for asylum.

It also claims the establishment of the rule violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act’s requirements for a reasoned explanation and an opportunity for public comment.

The lawsuit says the rule “bars virtually every citizen fleeing persecution from obtaining asylum in the United States if they passed through another country on the way here, no matter the conditions or purpose of their journey through that country.”

The groups are represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for Constitutional Rights.

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