The Trump administration implemented a new rule Tuesday denying asylum protections to most migrants, likely leading them to seek more dangerous routes to the United States. Immigrant rights advocates say the change comes with a “human cost”⁠—more deaths.

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Under the new rule, Trump’s latest attempt to restrict immigration, migrants who pass another country on the way and fail to apply for asylum there will not be eligible for protections in the U.S. Trump has deemed tougher immigration policies as necessary to help the “crisis” at the southern border with Mexico, but immigrant advocates say the rule will only lead to more deaths.

“The more obstacles asylum seekers face to a country where they could feel safe and protected, the more likely it is people will find dangerous and clandestine routes so they won’t be apprehended,” Carolina Jimenez, deputy research director for Americas for Amnesty International which has documented migrant deaths in transit for a decade, said to Newsweek.

“The more walls you build, the more likely people will find rivers or other ways to seek protection,” Jimenez continued. “So these new rules will very likely imply that people in extreme conditions will be willing to put themselves at greater risk to make sure that they reach the U.S.”

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Jimenez said that the rules impose “very difficult requirements to meet” for asylum and could, for example, force some migrants to take long journeys by boat never taken before.

“Of course, whenever you try a new dangerous route, the risk increases and it always has a human cost,” she said. “There is a very clear correlation between obstacles at borders or restrictive immigration policies and an increase of human rights violations—and that includes deaths.”

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Spencer Tilger, spokesman for Immigration Equality, told Newsweek that “if this rule is left standing, people will die.”

“So-called ‘deterrence’ policies don’t work—rather, they put asylum seekers in grave danger,” Tilger stated. “Denying them refuge in the U.S. will lead to the increased use of high-risk migration routes, and those forced to apply for asylum in third countries like Mexico or Guatemala will also be at risk.”

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On Tuesday afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Constitutional Rights filed a federal challenging the Trump administration’s new asylum rule violates “Congress’s requirement that asylum cannot be categorically denied based on an asylum seeker’s route to the United States.”

“Through policy after policy, this administration has manufactured the crisis at our southern border,” Southern Poverty Law Center senior supervising attorney Melissa Crow stated. “The new rule would only make this situation worse, while jeopardizing the safety and security of countless migrants fleeing persecution.”

Jimenez said that the new rule is as dangerous to asylum seekers’ rights as Trump’s biggest campaign promise.

“It’s very clear that every day, with all these polices, the wall is being built,” she said. “It is no longer a matter of building a physical barrier.”

Trump Asylum Rule Deaths
A boat arrives in Key West, Florida with more Cuban refugees, April 1980, from Mariel Harbor after crossing the Florida Straits. Immigrant rights advocates say a new Trump rule denying asylum to most migrants would lead them to take more dangerous routes and an increase in deaths.
Tim Chapman/Miami Herald

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