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Acting CBP chief says new asylum rule only implemented in Rio Grande Valley

Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said a new asylum rule introduced earlier this week is in the “piloting” phase even as officials expect it to be blocked in court. “Although the new federal regulation allows us to apply that all 2,000 miles along the southwest border, we’re not going to do that. We’re really piloting it in just one location,” Morgan told NPR’s All Things Considered. The regulation is being rolled out at two CBP stations in the Rio Grande Valley, he said.

Morgan appeared to acknowledge the rule could quickly be “enjoined” before it’s implemented wider. “We’re actually anticipating the … regulation will be enjoined,” he said. “And then we’ll have to go from there, as unfortunately, many times, this happens.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have sued the Trump administration to block the restrictions. A hearing is scheduled next week in federal court in California.

The asylum rule from the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security would — with limited exceptions — prohibit migrants who have resided or “transited en route” in a third country from seeking asylum in the US, therefore barring migrants traveling through Mexico from being able to claim asylum and as a result, drastically limit who is eligible for asylum.

The asylum workforce was notified of the changes late Monday night, and did not suggest that it was in a pilot phase.

“Until Congress can act, this interim rule will help reduce a major ‘pull’ factor driving irregular migration to the United States,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan in a statement earlier this week. “It will allow the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to “more quickly and efficiently process cases originating from the southern border, leading to fewer individuals transiting through Mexico on a dangerous journey.”

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the ACLU, called the rule “patently unlawful” in a statement.

“The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger. This new rule is patently unlawful, and we will sue swiftly,” the statement said.

The regulation marks the latest attempt by the White House to toughen the U.S. asylum process and limit immigration amid overcrowding at U.S. border facilities.

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