The Trump administration on Monday said it would take steps to make it more difficult for immigrants arriving on the southern border to seek asylum in the United States, putting the onus on them to ask for shelter in other countries.
The Department of Homeland Security, in a statement issued with the Department of Justice, said the interim rule would set a "new bar" for immigrants "by placing further restrictions or limitations on eligibility for aliens who seek asylum in the United States."
The proposal would make it tougher for applicants who did not apply for protection from persecution or torture where it was available in at least one "third country" through which they traveled en route to the United States.
The Trump administration wants to slow down a flow of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border. Most are Central Americans who have traveled through Mexico and Guatemala on the way to the border, though some come from as far as Africa.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the initiative would "help reduce a major 'pull' factor driving irregular migration to the United States."
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in the statement that while the "United States is a generous country," it was being "completely overwhelmed" by the hundreds of thousands of "aliens along the southern border." Many of them, he said, are seeking "meritless asylum claims."
The measure is intended to take effect with the rule's publication on Tuesday, according to the statement.