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Photo: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

The Justice Department is drafting a rule that would prevent immigrants who are criminally prosecuted for crossing the border illegally from being granted asylum, and increase scrutiny toward Central American asylum seekers, reports Vox's Dara Lind, who saw a draft of the rule.

Why it matters: Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented the zero-tolerance policy in order to deter immigrants from unlawfully crossing the border, and instead incentivize them to apply for asylum at legal ports of entry. But this approach takes that strategy to a whole new level.

  • If this draft became regulation, it would likely face legal pushback. Leon Fresco, a former DOJ immigration lawyer, told Axios it would be illegal to prevent someone from obtaining asylum simply because they crossed the border without permission.

What's next: The draft is being evaluated and, once finalized, will be posted in the Federal Registrar no fewer than 90 days before the regulation is official, according to Vox.

The impact, per Vox:

  • The new rule would make victims of domestic or gang violence unlikely to qualify for asylum.
  • It would disqualify any immigrants who present themselves to border patrol agents in between the legal ports of entry — a common way for asylum-seekers to make their claims.
    • As of right now, even the immigrants who have been criminally charged with improper entry into the U.S. under Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "zero-tolerance" policy can claim asylum after their criminal hearings. The proposed rule would end that chance.
  • It would limit the appeals of asylum seekers who fail their "credible fear" interview and reject incomplete applications.
  • It would make the question of how an asylum-seeker got into the U.S., and whether they spent more than 2 weeks in a different country before applying for asylum, an important factor in immigration judges' decisions.
    • Why this matters: This is something administration officials have advocated for in calls with reporters, especially during the furor over a Central American "caravan" of immigrants moving toward the U.S. border. Their argument is, essentially, if someone is really desperate enough to claim asylum, they should do so in the first country they pass through.

The bottom line: This is just a draft rule, and will likely go through some changes before we see the final version. If enacted, the regulation would make the asylum-seeking process much faster, but at the the price of denying many more claims.

Go deeper

President Joe Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden sought to sooth a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden and Vice President Harris review readiness of military troops, a long-standing tradition to signify the peaceful transfer of power.

Updated 55 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.