[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 223 (Tuesday, November 19, 2019)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 63994-64011]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-25137]



[[Page 63993]]

Vol. 84

Tuesday,

No. 223

November 19, 2019

Part III





Department of Homeland Security





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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services





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8 CFR Part 208





Department of Justice





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Executive Office for Immigration Review





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8 CFR Parts 1003, 1208 and 1240





Implementing Bilateral and Multilateral Asylum Cooperative Agreements 
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act; Interim Final Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 84 , No. 223 / Tuesday, November 19, 2019 / 
Rules and Regulations

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DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

8 CFR Part 208

[USCIS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0021]
RIN 1615-AC49

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Executive Office for Immigration Review

8 CFR Parts 1003, 1208, and 1240

[EOIR Docket No. 19-0021; A.G. Order No. 4581-2019]
RIN 1125-AA98


Implementing Bilateral and Multilateral Asylum Cooperative 
Agreements Under the Immigration and Nationality Act

AGENCY: Executive Office for Immigration Review, Department of Justice; 
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland 
Security.

ACTION: Interim final rule; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: The Department of Justice (``DOJ'') and the Department of 
Homeland Security (``DHS'') (collectively, ``the Departments'') are 
adopting an interim final rule (``IFR'' or ``rule'') to modify existing 
regulations to provide for the implementation of Asylum Cooperative 
Agreements (``ACAs'') that the United States enters into pursuant to 
section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (``INA'' or 
``Act''). Because the underlying purpose of section 208(a)(2)(A) is to 
provide asylum seekers with access to only one of the ACA signatory 
countries' protection systems, this rule adopts a modified approach to 
the expedited removal (``ER'') and section 240 processes in the form of 
a threshold screening as to which country will consider the alien's 
claim. This rule will apply to all ACAs in force between the United 
States and countries other than Canada, including bilateral ACAs 
recently entered into with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in an 
effort to share the distribution of hundreds of thousands of asylum 
claims. The rule will apply only prospectively to aliens who arrive at 
a U.S. port of entry, or enter or attempt to enter the United States 
between ports of entry, on or after the effective date of the rule.

DATES: 
    Effective date: This rule is effective November 19, 2019.
    Submission of public comments: Comments must be submitted on or 
before December 19, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by Docket Numbers USCIS-
2019-0021 and EOIR Docket No. 19-0021, through the Federal eRulemaking 
Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. If you cannot submit your material 
by using https://www.regulations.gov, contact the person in the FOR 
FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document for alternate 
instructions.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: 
    USCIS: Andrew Davidson, Chief, Asylum Division, Refugee Asylum and 
International Operations, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, 20 
Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20529-2140; 
Telephone (202) 272-8377 (not a toll-free call).
    EOIR: Lauren Alder Reid, Assistant Director, Office of Policy, 
Executive Office for Immigration Review, 5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 
2616, Falls Church, VA 22041; Telephone (703) 305-0289 (not a toll-free 
call).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Public Participation

    Interested persons are invited to participate in this rulemaking by 
submitting written data, views, or arguments on all aspects of this 
rule. The Departments also invite comments that relate to the potential 
economic or federalism effects that might result from this rule. To 
provide the most assistance to the Departments, comments should 
reference a specific portion of the rule; explain the reason for any 
recommended change; and include data, information, or authority that 
supports the recommended change. Comments received will be considered 
and addressed in the process of drafting the final rule.
    All comments submitted for this rulemaking should include the 
agency names and Docket Numbers USCIS-2019-0021 and EOIR Docket No. 19-
0021. Please note that all comments received are considered part of the 
public record and made available for public inspection at https://www.regulations.gov. Such information includes personally identifiable 
information (such as a person's name, address, or any other data that 
might personally identify that individual) that the commenter 
voluntarily submits.

II. Executive Summary

    The Departments are adopting an interim final rule to modify 
existing regulations to provide for the implementation of agreements 
that the United States enters into pursuant to section 208(a)(2)(A) of 
the INA. 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A). Such agreements--referred to by the 
Departments as Asylum Cooperative Agreements and alternatively 
described as safe third country agreements in existing regulations--are 
formed between the United States and foreign countries where aliens 
removed to those countries would have access to a full and fair 
procedure for determining a claim to asylum or equivalent temporary 
protection.\1\ In certain circumstances, an ACA, in conjunction with 
section 208(a)(2)(A), bars an alien subject to the agreement from 
applying for asylum in the United States and provides for the removal 
of the alien, pursuant to the agreement, to a country that will provide 
access to a full and fair procedure for determining the alien's 
protection claim. Removal pursuant to these agreements will be ordered 
within ER proceedings or, in certain instances, within INA section 240 
removal proceedings. But because the underlying purpose of section 
208(a)(2)(A) is to provide asylum seekers with access to only one of 
the ACA signatory countries' protection systems, this rule adopts a 
modified approach to the ER and section 240 processes in the form of a 
threshold screening as to which country will consider the alien's 
claim. This rule will apply to all ACAs between the United States and 
countries other than Canada. In 2002, the United States and Canada 
entered into a bilateral ACA, titled the ``Agreement Between the 
Government of the United States and the Government of Canada for 
Cooperation in the Examination of Refugee Status Claims from Nationals 
of Third Countries,'' which the Departments implemented by regulation 
in 2004.
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    \1\ For ease of reference, this rule refers to an asylum claim 
in the third country as alternatively encompassing ``equivalent 
temporary protection'' consistent with INA section 208(a)(2)(A), 8 
U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A).
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    Although various recent regulatory reforms have reduced the burdens 
associated with adjudicating asylum claims (and others hold out promise 
to do so should injunctions on their implementation be lifted), the 
U.S. asylum system remains overtaxed. Hundreds of thousands of migrants 
have reached the United States in recent years and have claimed a fear 
of persecution \2\ or torture. They often do

[[Page 63995]]

not ultimately establish legal qualification for such relief or even 
actually applying for protection after being released into the United 
States, which has contributed to a backlog of 987,198 cases before the 
Executive Office for Immigration Review (including 474,327 asylum 
cases), each taking an average of 816 days to complete. Asylum claims 
by aliens from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras account for over 
half of the pending asylum cases.
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    \2\ ``Fear of persecution'' as used in this document describes 
persecution ``on account of race, religion, nationality, membership 
in a particular social group, or political opinion.'' INA 
208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A).
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    To help alleviate those burdens and promote regional migration 
cooperation, the United States recently signed bilateral ACAs with El 
Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in an effort to share the 
distribution of asylum claims.\3\ Pending the Department of State's 
publication of the ACAs in the United States Treaties and Other 
International Agreements series in accordance with 1 U.S.C. 112a, the 
agreements will be published in a document in the Federal Register. 
This rule will establish the authority of DHS asylum officers to make 
threshold determinations as to whether aliens are ineligible to apply 
for asylum under those three ACAs, and any future ones, in the course 
of ER proceedings under section 235(b)(1) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 
1225(b)(1), once the agreements enter into force. As a practical 
matter, this rule will also establish the authority of immigration 
judges (``IJs'') to make such determinations in the context of removal 
proceedings under INA section 240, 8 U.S.C. 1229a. To the extent that 
an alien in ER proceedings is rendered ineligible to apply for asylum 
by more than one ACA, the immigration officer will assess which 
agreement is most appropriately applicable to the alien. Immigration 
officers may exercise discretion in making such determinations as 
authorized by the Secretary of Homeland Security (``Secretary'') via 
field guidance. To the extent that an alien in section 240 proceedings 
is rendered ineligible to apply for asylum by more than one ACA, the 
immigration judge shall enter alternate orders of removal to each 
country that is a signatory to an applicable ACA. DHS immigration 
officers may exercise discretion when selecting from among the 
alternate orders, again, as authorized by the Secretary via field 
guidance. The rule will apply only prospectively to aliens who arrive 
at a U.S. port of entry, or enter or attempt to enter the United States 
between ports of entry, on or after the effective date of the rule.
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    \3\ None of these agreements have yet entered into force.
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III. Purpose of This Interim Final Rule

    Asylum is a discretionary immigration benefit that generally can be 
sought by eligible aliens who are physically present or arriving in the 
United States. See INA 208(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(1). Throughout the 
past decade, the United States has experienced a significant increase 
in the number of aliens encountered at or near its borders, 
particularly the southern land border with Mexico, as described by the 
Departments' recent joint rule requiring certain aliens seeking to 
apply for asylum to have first applied for equivalent protection in at 
least one country through which they transited en route to the United 
States, see Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications, 84 FR 
33829, 33830 (July 16, 2019). This increase has been accompanied by a 
sharp increase in the number and percentage of aliens requesting asylum 
or claiming a fear of persecution or torture when apprehended or 
encountered by DHS. As noted by the third-country-transit rule, for 
example, over the past decade the percentage of aliens referred for 
credible fear interviews within ER proceedings jumped from 
approximately 5 percent to above 40 percent. Id. at 33830-31. The 
number of asylum cases filed with DOJ also rose sharply, more than 
tripling between 2013 and 2018. Id. at 33831. During that same period, 
the filing of affirmative asylum applications rose from 44,453 in 2013 
to 106,147 in 2018.
    This increase reflects high rises in both defensive asylum claims 
(i.e., asylum claims raised after removal proceedings have begun) and 
affirmative asylum claims (i.e., asylum claims raised apart from or 
before removal proceedings have begun). In Fiscal Year (``FY'') 2018, 
110,136 individuals in ER proceedings raised claims of persecution or 
torture and were referred for credible fear interviews (99,035 
individuals) or reasonable fear interviews (11,101 individuals). These 
individuals, combined with individuals who filed for asylum while in 
INA section 240 removal proceedings, resulted in 114,532 defensive 
asylum applications filed with DOJ in FY2018. Additionally, in FY2018, 
48,922 affirmative asylum applications were also referred to DOJ. By 
contrast, in FY2013, 43,768 individuals in ER proceedings raised claims 
of persecution or torture and were referred for credible fear 
interviews (36,035 individuals) or reasonable fear interviews (7,733 
individuals). These individuals, combined with individuals who filed 
for asylum while in section 240 removal proceedings, resulted in 23,500 
defensive asylum applications filed with DOJ in FY2013. Additionally, 
in FY2013, 19,963 affirmative asylum applications were also referred to 
DOJ.
    This has led to a backlog that, as of October 11, 2019, included 
more than 476,000 asylum cases before DOJ's Executive Office for 
Immigration Review (``EOIR''). The backlog of affirmative asylum 
applications pending with USCIS sits at 340,810, as of the end of 
FY2019. Historically, only a small minority of the individuals claiming 
a fear of return on the basis of persecution or torture were ultimately 
granted asylum or had even applied for it. Indeed, over the years, many 
aliens who initially claimed a fear of return upon entry or arrival 
abandoned those claims altogether.
    Immigration detention centers have often been pushed to capacity, 
making even temporary detention for arriving aliens difficult to 
sustain. Or aliens have been released into the interior of the country, 
after which they often fail to appear for their removal proceedings, or 
unlawfully abscond after receiving removal orders, becoming fugitives. 
To help ease some of the burden on the immigration detention system and 
to reduce the numbers of aliens illegally entering the country, the 
Administration has worked with Mexico to permit people attempting to 
enter the United States from Mexico on land to remain in Mexico while 
awaiting their removal proceedings, pursuant to section 235(b)(2)(C) of 
the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(2)(C).
    Arresting the significant number of aliens who illegally enter the 
United States or arrive at ports of entry without the necessary 
documents to enter the United States legally, and processing and 
adjudicating their fear of return claims for ER, and processing and 
adjudicating their asylum claims in removal proceedings under INA 
section 240, consumes a tremendous amount of resources within the 
Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. After surveilling and 
arresting aliens, DHS must devote significant resources towards 
detaining many aliens pending further proceedings, process (and in the 
context of ER) adjudicate their claims (which are subject to 
potentially multiple layers of review), and represent the United States 
during removal proceedings before EOIR.
    The large number of aliens seeking relief in the United States also 
consumes substantial DOJ resources. Within DOJ, IJs adjudicate aliens' 
asylum claims in INA section 240

[[Page 63996]]

proceedings, prosecutors and law enforcement officials must prosecute 
and maintain custody of aliens who violate Federal criminal law, and 
DOJ attorneys represent the United States in civil cases involving 
immigration and detention issues. Despite DOJ deploying 80% more 
immigration judges than in 2010, and completing nearly double the 
number of asylum cases in FY2018 as in FY2010, more than 476,000 asylum 
cases remain pending before the immigration courts. Further, 
immigration courts have an additional caseload that stems from cases 
that are not related to asylum. This significantly increased backlog is 
due in part to the sharp increase in the numbers of filed asylum 
applications. Between 2010 and 2018, there was a nearly nine-fold 
increase in defensive asylum cases and the number of affirmative asylum 
cases referred to EOIR more than doubled.
    The large majority of fear of persecution or torture claims raised 
by those arrested at the southern border either have not led to actual 
claims for asylum or have been ultimately determined to be without 
legal merit. For example, in FY2018, 34,031 individuals who had 
received credible fear interviews before asylum officers were referred 
to DOJ for asylum hearings. Approximately 39%, or 13,369, of these 
individuals failed to file an asylum application, and thus abandoned 
their claims. Only 5,577 individuals were granted asylum, a number 
equal to 16.4% of all individuals referred to DOJ after credible fear 
interviews, or 27% of individuals who were referred to DOJ following a 
credible fear interview and filed an asylum application. The success 
rate declines when one looks at all asylum applications adjudicated by 
DOJ. In FY2018, 64,223 asylum applications were adjudicated by DOJ's 
immigration judges. Only 13,173, or 20.5%, were granted. The strain on 
the U.S. immigration system, and the wait times for aliens seeking to 
process legitimate claims through the U.S. asylum system, is extreme. 
This delay extends to the immigration court system, where cases 
involving related immigration and detention issues have caused 
significant docket backlogs.
    In section 208(a)(2)(A) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A), 
Congress provided a mechanism to help ease this strain on the 
immigration system by authorizing the Executive Branch to enter into 
agreements with other countries to distribute the burdens associated 
with adjudicating claims for asylum or equivalent temporary protection. 
Specifically, section 208(a)(2)(A) authorizes the Executive Branch to 
bar an alien from applying for asylum in the United States where, 
pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement, the alien may be 
removed to a third country (i.e., a country other than the alien's 
country of nationality or last habitual residence, see INA 
208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A)), that affords the alien access to 
a full and fair procedure for determining claims for asylum or 
equivalent temporary protection. Consistent with the President's 
extensive foreign affairs authority, see, e.g., Zivotofsky v. Kerry, 
135 S. Ct. 2076, 2084-94 (2015); United States v. Curtiss-Wright Exp. 
Corp., 299 U.S. 304, 319 (1936) (emphasizing the President's extensive 
role representing U.S. interests in relations with foreign nations), 
section 208(a)(2)(A), by its terms, provides substantial flexibility to 
the Executive Branch in negotiating and implementing ACAs. Accord INA 
208(d)(5)(B), 8 U.S.C. 1158(d)(5)(B) (authorizing the Attorney General 
and Secretary to ``provide by regulation for any other conditions or 
limitations on the consideration of an application for asylum not 
inconsistent with this chapter''); see also Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. 
v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 635 (Jackson, J., concurring) (``When the 
President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of 
Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he 
possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate.''); id. 
at 637 (observing that an exercise of federal affairs power ``pursuant 
to an Act of congress would be supported by the strongest of 
presumptions and the widest latitude of judicial interpretation'').
    In contrast to statutory and regulatory bars providing that certain 
aliens are ineligible to receive asylum, see, e.g., INA 208(b)(2)(A), 
(C), 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(2)(A), (C), the ACA bar relates to whether an 
alien may even apply for asylum. Unlike the restrictions on asylum 
eligibility, application of the ACA bar does not involve an evaluation 
of whether an alien would ultimately receive asylum relief if able to 
apply, or even whether the alien has made a preliminary showing of a 
significant possibility that the alien would be eligible for asylum. 
Rather, section 208(a)(2)(A) bars an alien from applying for asylum in 
the United States when the following four requirements are satisfied: 
(i) The United States has entered into a requisite ``bilateral or 
multilateral agreement''; (ii) at least one of the signatory countries 
to the agreement is a ``third country'' with respect to the alien; 
(iii) ``the alien's life or freedom would not be threatened'' in that 
third country ``on account of race, religion, nationality, membership 
in a particular social group, or political opinion''; and (iv) that 
third country provides aliens removed there pursuant to the agreement 
``access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum 
or equivalent temporary protection.'' \4\ Even if all of these elements 
are satisfied, the Secretary nonetheless may determine in his 
discretion ``that it is in the public interest for the alien to receive 
asylum in the United States.'' INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 
1158(a)(2)(A).
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    \4\ Unaccompanied alien children, as defined by 6 U.S.C. 279(g), 
are categorically exempted from the ACA bar. See INA 208(a)(2)(E), 8 
U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(E).
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    This interim rule will amend DHS and DOJ regulations implementing 
section 208(a)(2)(A) to effectuate ACAs other than the agreement 
already formed with Canada in 2002 and implemented by regulation in 
2004. See Implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of the 
United States of America and the Government of Canada Regarding Asylum 
Claims Made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR 69480 
((Nov. 29, 2004) (DHS) Asylum Claims Made by Aliens Arriving from 
Canada at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR 69490 (Nov. 29, 2004) 
(DOJ).
    In particular, this rule will broaden the procedures (implemented 
in ER and INA section 240 proceedings) for determining whether an alien 
is subject to an ACA or within one of its exceptions to account for 
ACAs other than the U.S.-Canada Agreement. Additionally, this rule will 
establish a screening mechanism to evaluate whether an alien who would 
otherwise be removable to a third country under an ACA other than the 
U.S.-Canada Agreement can establish that it is more likely than not 
that he or she would be persecuted on account of race, religion, 
nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political 
opinion, or would be tortured in that third country. This rule 
consequently will provide a general mechanism for implementation of all 
existing and future ACAs not previously implemented.\5\ In sum, this

[[Page 63997]]

rule implements a screening mechanism to determine: (i) Whether an 
alien falls within the terms of a bilateral or multilateral ACA formed 
under section 208(a)(2)(A), other than the previously implemented U.S.-
Canada Agreement, (ii) whether an alien within an ACA's plain terms 
nonetheless falls under one of the agreement's exceptions, and (iii) 
whether an alien within an ACA's scope but not subject to an exception 
nonetheless demonstrates that it is more likely than not that the 
alien's life or freedom would be threatened or the alien would be 
tortured in the third country.
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    \5\ This interim rule leaves in place the regulatory structure 
specific to the U.S.-Canada Agreement so as to avoid disruption to 
long-standing processes and expectations concerning implementation 
of that agreement. This rule will allow for implementation of ACAs 
that have a broader scope of applicability than the U.S.-Canada 
Agreement and, consequently, provides for a more robust threshold 
screening mechanism for evaluating whether an alien is properly 
removed subject to an ACA other than the U.S.-Canada Agreement, 
which is narrowly directed to third country nationals seeking to 
enter the United States at a U.S.-Canada land border port of entry.
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    ACAs entered pursuant to section 208(a)(2)(A) will be published in 
the Federal Register. Prior to implementation of an ACA, the Attorney 
General and the Secretary of Homeland Security (``Secretary'') will 
evaluate and make a categorical determination whether a country to 
which aliens would be removed under such an agreement provides ``access 
to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum or 
equivalent temporary protection.'' INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 
1158(a)(2)(A). Section 208(a)(2)(A) of the INA also requires a 
determination that an alien's life and freedom would not be threatened 
on account of a protected ground in a third country with which the 
United States has entered into an ACA. This rule effectuates such a 
determination via individualized threshold screening that provides an 
opportunity for an alien to establish fear of persecution in the third 
country to which he would be removed pursuant to an ACA.
    The INA's ACA provision provides authority to pursue significant 
policy interests by entering into bilateral or multilateral agreements 
allowing for burden-sharing between the United States and other 
countries with respect to refugee-protection claims.
    Consistent with this compelling policy aim, this interim rule is 
intended to aid the United States in its negotiations with foreign 
nations on migration issues. Specifically, the rule will aid the United 
States as it seeks to develop a regional framework with other countries 
to more equitably distribute the burden of processing the protection 
claims of the hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants who now seek 
to enter the United States every year and claim a fear of return. 
Addressing the eligibility for asylum of aliens who enter or attempt to 
enter the United States will better position the United States as it 
engages in ongoing diplomatic negotiations with Mexico and the Northern 
Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) regarding 
migration issues in general, and related measures employed to curtail 
the irregular flow of aliens into the United States.

IV. Background and Legal Basis for Regulatory Changes

A. DOJ and DHS Authority To Promulgate This Rule

    The Attorney General and the Secretary publish this joint IFR 
pursuant to their respective authorities concerning asylum 
determinations. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (``HSA''), Public Law 
107-296, 116 Stat. 2135, as amended, created DHS and transferred to it 
many functions related to the execution of Federal immigration law. The 
Secretary was charged ``with the administration and enforcement of this 
chapter and all other laws relating to the immigration and 
naturalization of aliens,'' INA 103(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1103(a)(1), and 
granted the power to take all actions ``necessary for carrying out'' 
his authority under the immigration laws, INA 103(a)(3), 8 U.S.C. 
1103(a)(3).
    The HSA thus transferred to DHS some authority to adjudicate asylum 
applications, including the authority to conduct ``credible fear'' 
interviews in the context of ER. INA 235(b)(1)(B), 8 U.S.C. 
1225(b)(1)(B); see also HSA 451(b), 116 Stat. at 2196 (providing for 
the transfer of adjudication of asylum and refugee applications from 
the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization to the Director of 
the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services). That authority has 
been delegated within DHS to USCIS. See 8 CFR 208.2(a), 208.30.
    In addition, under the HSA, the Attorney General retained authority 
over individual immigration adjudications (including certain 
adjudications related to asylum applications) conducted within EOIR. 
See HSA 1101(a), 6 U.S.C. 521; INA 103(g), 8 U.S.C. 1103(g). IJs within 
DOJ continue to adjudicate all asylum applications made by aliens 
during the removal process, and they also review asylum applications 
referred by USCIS to the immigration court. See INA 101(b)(4), 
240(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(4), 1229a(a)(1); 8 CFR 1208.2(b), 
1240.1(a). Additionally, the INA provides that ``determination and 
ruling by the Attorney General with respect to all questions of law 
shall be controlling.'' INA 103(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1103(a)(1).
    This rule specifically concerns implementation of section 
208(a)(2)(A) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A), which generally 
provides that an alien may not apply for asylum if the Attorney General 
and the Secretary determine that the alien may be removed, pursuant to 
a bilateral or multilateral agreement, to a country (other than the 
country of the alien's nationality or, in the case of an alien having 
no nationality, the country of the alien's last habitual residence) in 
which the alien's life or freedom would not be threatened on account of 
race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, 
or political opinion, and where the alien would have access to a full 
and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum or equivalent 
temporary protection, unless the Secretary finds that it is in the 
public interest for the alien to receive asylum in the United States.
    By operation of the HSA, the reference to ``Attorney General'' is 
understood to also encompass the Secretary, depending on whether the 
alien is in immigration proceedings before DHS or DOJ. Thus, 
determinations as to whether an alien's asylum application is barred by 
INA section 208(a)(2)(A), in conjunction with an ACA, fall within the 
scope of both DHS and DOJ authority, as each department bears 
responsibility for adjudicating asylum applications. In addition, 
section 208(d)(5)(B) of the INA authorizes the Secretary and the 
Attorney General to ``provide by regulation for any other conditions or 
limitations on the consideration of an application for asylum not 
inconsistent with this chapter.'' 8 U.S.C. 1158(d)(5)(B); see 
Implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of the United 
States of America and the Government of Canada Regarding Asylum Claims 
Made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR 10620, 10622 
(Mar. 8, 2004) (DHS) (proposed rule) (relying in part on INA 
208(d)(5)(B) to establish threshold screening for applicability of INA 
208(a)(2)(A) in relation to the U.S.-Canada Agreement). This broad 
division of functions and authorities informs the background of this 
interim rule.

B. Adjudication of Asylum Applications and the Section 208(a)(2)(A) Bar

    Asylum is a form of discretionary relief under section 208 of the 
INA, 8 U.S.C. 1158. Under that provision, aliens applying for asylum 
must establish (i) that they meet the definition of a ``refugee'' set 
forth at INA 101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(A); (ii) that they are 
not subject to a bar to either applying for asylum or receiving asylum; 
and (iii) that they merit a favorable exercise of discretion. INA 
208(a)-(b), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)-(b).

[[Page 63998]]

1. Removal Under ER and INA Section 240 Proceedings
    When aliens indicate an intention to apply for asylum, or express a 
fear of persecution or torture, or a fear of removal to their country 
in the context of ER proceedings, they are evaluated in ER proceedings 
by immigration officers through a credible fear interview designed to 
determine whether there is a significant possibility that the alien 
would be eligible for asylum, statutory withholding of removal, or 
protection under the regulations issued pursuant to legislation 
implementing the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or 
Degrading Treatment or Punishment (``CAT''), December 10, 1984, 1465 
U.N.T.S. 84, S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20 (1988). INA 235(b)(1)(B), 8 
U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(B), 8 CFR 208.30, 235.3(b)(4). Section 235(a)(3) of 
the INA provides that ``[a]ll aliens . . . who are applicants for 
admission . . . shall be inspected by immigration officers.'' 8 U.S.C. 
1225(a)(3). As part of initial inspections, immigration officers must 
assess whether an alien is inadmissible. Aliens who cannot establish 
``clearly and beyond a doubt'' that they are ``entitled to be 
admitted'' will be examined for removal, as a matter of discretion, 
under the jurisdictional framework of either ER (if they are eligible) 
\6\ or section 240 removal proceedings (or, in certain circumstances, 
other removal proceedings). See INA 235(b)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 
1225(b)(2)(A) (``Subject to subparagraphs (B) and (C), in the case of 
an alien who is an applicant for admission, if the examining 
immigration officer determines that an alien seeking admission is not 
clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted, the alien shall be 
detained for a proceeding under section [240].''); INA 235(b)(2)(B), 8 
U.S.C. 1225(b)(2)(B) (providing that crewmen, stowaways, and aliens 
subject to ER need not receive section 240 hearings).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ See INA 235(b)(1)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A) (authorizing 
screening by immigration officers to determine whether aliens are 
eligible for ER because they are inadmissible for engaging in fraud 
or willful misrepresentation related to a visa, other documentation, 
or admission, or for falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, INA 
212(a)(6)(C), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(C), or for not possessing valid 
entry documents, INA 212(a)(7), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(7)).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the ER process, if a DHS immigration officer determines that an 
alien is inadmissible on one of two specified grounds, and meets 
certain other criteria, the alien generally must be ``removed from the 
United States without further hearing or review unless the alien 
indicates either an intention to apply for asylum under [section 208] 
or a fear of persecution.'' INA 235(b)(1)(A)(i), 8 U.S.C. 
1225(b)(1)(A)(i). If, however, such an alien ``indicates either an 
intention to apply for asylum . . . or a fear of persecution'' (or, by 
regulation, a fear of torture), the alien must instead be referred 
``for an interview by an asylum officer.'' INA 235(b)(1)(A)(ii), 8 
U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(ii); see also 8 CFR 235.3(b)(4).
    Generally, in that interview, the asylum officer determines whether 
the alien has ``a credible fear of persecution or torture''--that is, 
whether there is a ``significant possibility'' that the alien could 
succeed on the merits of his or her claims for asylum, statutory 
withholding of removal, or protection under the CAT regulations. 8 CFR 
208.30(d), (e)(2)-(3). If the officer makes a positive credible fear 
determination, the officer must refer the alien ``for full 
consideration of [the alien's claim(s) for relief or protection] in 
proceedings under section 240 of the Act.'' Id. 208.30(f). If the 
asylum officer makes a negative determination, and a supervisory 
officer concurs, the asylum officer ``shall order the alien removed,'' 
subject to review by an IJ at the request of the alien of the negative 
credible fear determination. Id. 208.30(g)(1)(i)-(ii).
    Similarly, in section 240 removal proceedings, an IJ first 
determines whether the alien is inadmissible or deportable. See INA 
240(c)(2)-(3), 8 U.S.C. 1229a(c)(2)-(3); 8 CFR 1240.8(a)-(c). If the IJ 
determines that the alien is inadmissible or deportable, the alien then 
bears the burden to demonstrate that he or she should receive any form 
of relief or protection from removal--e.g., asylum. See INA 240(c)(4), 
8 U.S.C. 1229a(c)(4); 8 CFR 1240.8(d). If the alien does so, the IJ 
grants the alien's application for relief or protection; if not, the IJ 
orders the alien removed, subject to potential review by the Board of 
Immigration Appeals (``BIA'') and a federal court of appeals. See INA 
240(c)(1), (5), 8 U.S.C. 1229a(c)(1), (5); INA 242, 8 U.S.C. 1252; 8 
CFR 1003.1(b)(3), 1240.1(a)(1).
2. Removals to Third Countries Consistent With the ACA Provision of INA 
Section 208(a)(2)(A)
    Directly upon an initial inadmissibility or deportability 
determination within either an ER proceeding or a section 240 
proceeding, see, e.g., INA 235(b)(1)(A)(ii), 240(c)(2)-(3), 8 U.S.C. 
1225(b)(1)(A)(ii), 1229a(c)(2)-(3), section 208(a)(2)(A) authorizes an 
asylum officer or IJ to conduct a threshold screening to determine 
whether an alien is barred from applying for asylum in the United 
States pursuant to an ACA, 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A). This rule will 
provide a mechanism for the operation of these threshold screenings. 
Under this rule, an asylum officer or IJ will determine whether an 
alien is subject to an ACA, and, if so, in those instances in which the 
alien affirmatively states a fear of removal to a country that is a 
signatory to the agreement, whether the alien can affirmatively 
establish it is more likely than not that the alien would be persecuted 
or tortured in that country. If the alien is subject to the ACA but 
fails to demonstrate it is more likely than not that he or she would be 
subject to persecution on account of a protected ground or to torture 
in that country, the ER or section 240 proceeding would be completed 
without an adjudication of any claims relating to a fear of persecution 
or torture in the alien's home country.
    Under this rule, however, an alien may voluntarily abandon his or 
her asylum claim prior to removal pursuant to an ACA, choosing instead 
to accept a removal order without pursuing any application for asylum. 
Cf. Implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of the 
United States of America and the Government of Canada Regarding Asylum 
Claims Made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 
69482 (DHS) (noting that immigration officers can use their discretion 
to permit aliens subject to removal under ACAs to withdraw their 
applications for admission so that they do not face an admissibility 
bar to a subsequent admission to the United States). Further, 
application of an ACA remains within the discretion of the screening 
officer and DHS, which may conclude nonetheless that ``it is in the 
public interest for the alien to receive asylum in the United States.'' 
\7\ INA 208(a)(2)(A), 1158(a)(2)(A); see Asylum Claims Made by Aliens 
Arriving from Canada at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR 10627, 10628 
(DOJ) (proposed rule) (recognizing that ``the United States Government 
may conclude, in its discretion, that it is in the public interest to 
allow an arriving alien to remain in the United States to pursue

[[Page 63999]]

protection'' even if the alien is subject to an ACA and that this 
``discretionary determination is reserved to DHS'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ As in the case of the U.S.-Canada Agreement, if there are 
unique considerations that the individual would like DHS to consider 
with respect to the ``public interest'' exception to application of 
an ACA, the individual should timely bring them to the officer's 
attention. Cf. Implementation of the Agreement Between the 
Government of the United States of America and the Government of 
Canada Regarding Asylum Claims Made in Transit and at Land Border 
Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 69483 (DHS) (noting that the Agreement's 
public interest exception is ``best administered through operational 
guidance and on an individualized, case-by-case basis'').
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Section 208(a)(1) generally establishes that ``[a]ny alien who is 
physically present in . . . or who arrives in the United States . . . 
may apply for asylum.'' 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(1). But section 208(a)(2) 
places limitations on those applications. Most of the section 208(a)(2) 
application limitations are procedural, such as the stipulation that 
asylum applications must generally be filed within one year of arrival 
in the United States. INA 208(a)(2)(B), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(B). But 
section 208(a)(2)(A) provides a more substantive limitation--
establishing that, in certain circumstances, an alien covered by an ACA 
is prohibited from applying for asylum in the United States.
    Specifically, an alien's asylum application is barred if the 
following four conditions are satisfied: (i) The United States has 
entered ``a bilateral or multilateral agreement'' under which certain 
aliens may be removed--that is, an ACA; (ii) the alien is subject to 
the ACA, and one of the signatory countries is a ``third country'' with 
respect to the alien; (iii) ``the alien's life or freedom would not be 
threatened'' in that third country ``on account of race, religion, 
nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political 
opinion''; and (iv) that third country will provide the alien with 
``access to a full and fair procedure for determining a claim to asylum 
or equivalent temporary protection.'' INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 
1158(a)(2)(A). The INA provides that ``[n]o court shall have 
jurisdiction'' to review any determination of the Attorney General or 
Secretary made under any of the provisions within section 208(a)(2). 
INA 208(a)(3), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(3).
3. Protection Screening With Respect to Removal to the Third Country
    Where section 208(a)(2)(A) applies, it bars an alien from applying 
for asylum in the United States and authorizes the removal of the alien 
to a third country that will provide procedures for asylum or 
equivalent temporary protection in the place of the United States. This 
rule, however, provides that if an alien states a fear of persecution 
or torture in, or removal to, the third country, an asylum officer will 
determine whether ``the alien's life or freedom would . . . be 
threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a 
particular social group, or political opinion.'' INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 
U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A). The terms of section 208(a)(2)(A) do not specify 
the precise procedural mechanism by which the Attorney General and 
Secretary must determine that an alien's life or freedom will not be 
threatened on account of a protected ground in the third country. As 
the relevant text of section 208(a)(2)(A) (``the alien's life or 
freedom would not be threatened [in the third country] on account of 
race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, 
or political opinion'') mirrors the standard for protection contained 
in the INA's withholding-of-removal provision, INA 241(b)(3)(A), 8 
U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(A), this regulation adopts the burden of proof that 
applies in the withholding-of-removal context. And the withholding-of-
removal provision has long been construed to call for a determination 
as to whether the alien can show that it is ``more likely than not'' 
that he or she would be persecuted on account of a protected ground in 
the country of removal. See INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 423 
(1987); INS v. Stevic, 467 U.S. 407, 429-30 (1984); see also 8 CFR 
1208.16(b)(2). Accordingly, under the threshold screening implemented 
by this rule, an alien will not be removed to a third country under INA 
section 208(a)(2)(A) if the alien establishes that it is more likely 
than not that the alien would be persecuted on account of a protected 
ground in that country.
    The United States has undertaken certain non-refoulement (non-
return) obligations under the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of 
Refugees (``1967 Protocol''), which incorporates Articles 2-34 of the 
1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (``1951 
Convention'').\8\ Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, as 
understood in U.S. law, generally precludes state parties from removing 
individuals to any country where their lives or freedom would be 
threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, political 
opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Consistent with 
these obligations, Congress has precluded removal of an alien to a 
third country under section 208(a)(2)(A) if ``the alien's life or 
freedom would . . . be threatened on account of race, religion, 
nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political 
opinion.'' 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ The United States is a party to the 1967 Protocol, but not 
the 1951 Convention. Stevic, 467 U.S. at 416 & n.9. The Protocol is 
not self-executing in the United States. See Khan v. Holder, 584 
F.3d 773, 783 (9th Cir. 2009). But the United States has implemented 
Article 34 of the 1951 Convention--which provides that party states 
``shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and 
naturalization of refugees''--through the INA's asylum provision, 
section 208. See Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. at 441 (internal 
quotation marks omitted). As the Supreme Court has recognized, 
Article 34 is ``precatory'' and ``does not require [an] implementing 
authority actually to grant asylum to all'' persons determined to be 
refugees. Id. Thus, Congress's decision to bar certain classes of 
aliens from applying for asylum does not contravene Article 34. See 
Garcia v. Sessions, 856 F.3d 27, 42 (1st Cir. 2017) (Article 34 does 
not ``preclude[ ] a contracting State from imposing a limitation on 
the eligibility of an alien to seek asylum''); see also R-S-C- v. 
Sessions, 869 F.3d 1176, 1188 (10th Cir. 2017) (similar); Cazun v. 
U.S. Att'y Gen., 856 F.3d 249, 257 & n.16 (3d Cir. 2017) (similar).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The United States has also undertaken certain non-refoulement 
obligations under CAT, which are effectuated by DHS and DOJ regulations 
that prohibit the removal of an alien to a country where he or she 
would more likely than not be tortured. See 8 CFR 208.16(c), 
1208.16(c).\9\ Removing an alien to a third country pursuant to an ACA 
for consideration of the alien's protection claim in that country is 
consistent with U.S. obligations under CAT, in the absence of grounds 
for believing that the alien would be persecuted on account of a 
protected ground or tortured in the third country. See Implementation 
of the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America 
and the Government of Canada Regarding Asylum Claims Made in Transit 
and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 10624 (DHS) (proposed rule) 
(explaining the interaction between CAT obligations and the application 
of the U.S.-Canada Agreement).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ CAT is also not self-executing in the United States. See 
Auguste v. Ridge, 395 F.3d 123, 132 (3d Cir. 2005).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Congress enacted section 208(a)(2)(A) as a mechanism for countries 
to burden-share the responsibility for providing protection to 
refugees. Such agreements allocate responsibility between the United 
States and the third country with which it has formed an ACA whereby 
one country or the other (but not both) will bear responsibility for 
processing the asylum and other protection claims of refugees subject 
to the terms of the ACA. See id. at 10620 (explaining the legal 
authority for applying cooperative agreements rather than permitting 
applications for asylum or other relief in the United States); see also 
Asylum Claims Made by Aliens Arriving from Canada at Land Border Ports-
of-Entry, 69 FR at 10628 (DOJ) (proposed rule) (providing that aliens 
subject to the U.S.-Canada Agreement are ``not eligible to apply for 
asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under [CAT] in the United 
States''). The salient factor for the formulation and application of a 
section 208(a)(2)(A) agreement is whether the country sharing 
responsibility with the United States for refugee protection has laws 
and

[[Page 64000]]

mechanisms in place that adhere to international treaty obligations to 
protect refugees. See Implementation of the Agreement Between the 
Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada 
Regarding Asylum Claims made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-
Entry, 69 FR at 10620 (DHS) (proposed rule).
    Accordingly, this interim rule provides that an alien who will 
potentially be subject to an ACA will be advised that he or she may be 
removed to a third country pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral 
agreement. If the alien affirmatively states a fear of removal to or 
persecution or torture in that third country, a DHS asylum officer will 
interview the alien to determine whether it is more likely than not 
that the alien would be persecuted on account of a protected ground or 
tortured in the third country. See 8 CFR 208.30. DOJ immigration judges 
will apply a similar procedure to determine whether a removal pursuant 
to an ACA cannot proceed because the individual has established that it 
is more likely than not that he or she would be persecuted on account 
of a protected ground or tortured in the third country. See id. 
1240.11.
4. Additional Consequences of the Applicability of Section 208(a)(2)(A) 
to an Alien's Asylum Application
    If an asylum officer or IJ determines that an alien is barred from 
applying for asylum under section 208(a)(2)(A), then the alien is also 
barred from applying for withholding of removal under section 
241(b)(3)(A) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(A), and protection under 
the regulations implementing CAT. The purpose of section 208(a)(2)(A)--
and an agreement between the United States and another country formed 
thereunder--is to vest ``one country or the other (but not both) [with 
the] responsibility for processing'' an alien's claims related to fear 
of persecution or torture in the alien's home country. Implementation 
of the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America 
and the Government of Canada Regarding Asylum Claims Made in Transit 
and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 10620 (DHS) (proposed 
rule). That purpose would be defeated if, even when section 
208(a)(2)(A) and an ACA made another country responsible for 
adjudicating an alien's asylum claim, the United States remained 
responsible for adjudicating his or her claims for withholding of 
removal and CAT protection. Moreover, even if the United States granted 
an alien's claims to withholding of removal or CAT protection, thereby 
eliminating the possibility of removal to the alien's home country, 
``[n]othing . . . [would] prevent the [United States] from removing 
[the] alien to a third country''--including a country that is a 
signatory to an applicable ACA. 8 CFR 208.16(f), 1208.16(f). Because 
the alien could be removed to a third country pursuant to an ACA 
regardless of the eventual outcome of his or her withholding-of-removal 
or CAT protection claims, Congress cannot have intended to require DHS 
and DOJ to adjudicate those claims before effectuating such a removal. 
See Asylum Claims Made by Aliens Arriving from Canada at Land Border 
Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 69492-93 (DOJ) (for similar reasons, 
concluding that, if the U.S.-Canada Agreement bars an alien from 
applying for asylum in the United States, the alien is also barred from 
applying for withholding of removal and CAT protection).

C. Consistency With International Practice

    The INA's ACA provision embodies the policy aim of entering into 
bilateral or multilateral agreements to promote burden-sharing between 
the United States and other countries with respect to refugee 
protection. The U.S. efforts to formulate ACAs with foreign countries 
is in keeping with the efforts of other liberal democracies to 
formulate cooperative arrangements in which multiple countries agree to 
share the review of refugee claims for protection.
    For example, in 1990, European countries adopted the Dublin 
Regulation in response to an asylum crisis as refugees and economic 
migrants fled communism at the end of the Cold War; it came into force 
in 1997. See Convention Determining the State Responsible for Examining 
Applications for Asylum Lodged in One of the Member States of the 
European Communities, 1997 O.J. (C 254). The United Nations High 
Commissioner for Refugees (``UNHCR'') praised the Dublin Regulation's 
``commendable efforts to share and allocate the burden of review of 
refugee and asylum claims.'' UNHCR Position on Conventions Recently 
Concluded in Europe (Dublin and Schengen Conventions), 3 Eur. Series 2, 
385 (1991). Now in its third iteration, the Dublin III Regulation sets 
asylum criteria and protocol for the European Union (``EU''). It 
instructs that asylum claims ``shall be examined by a single Member 
State.'' Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of 
the Council of 26 June 2013, Establishing the Criteria and Mechanisms 
for Determining the Member State Responsible for Examining an 
Application for International Protection Lodged in One of the Member 
States by a Third-Country National or a Stateless Person (Recast), 2013 
O.J. (L 180) 31, 37.
    UNHCR likewise generally has accepted the safe third country 
concept as consonant with international refugee law principles. UNHCR, 
Legal Considerations Regarding Access to Protection and a Connection 
Between the Refugee and the Third Country in the Context of Return or 
Transfer to Safe Third Countries (Apr. 2018), available at http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/5acb33ad4.pdf. According to UNHCR, ``refugees do 
not have an unfettered right to choose their `asylum country.' '' Id. 
at 1 & n.1 (citing UNHCR, Guidance Note on bilateral and/or 
multilateral transfer arrangements of asylum-seekers, May 2013, para. 
3(i), http://www.refworld.org/docid/51af82794.html; UNHCR, Summary 
Conclusions on the Concept of ``Effective Protection'' in the Context 
of Secondary Movements of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers (Lisbon Expert 
Roundtable, 9-10 December 2002), Feb. 2003, para. 11, http://www.refworld.org/docid/3fe9981e4.html). Instead, ``[r]efugees may be 
returned or transferred to a state where they had found, could have 
found or, pursuant to a formal agreement, can find international 
protection. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and 
its 1967 Protocol do not prohibit such return or transfer.'' \10\ Id. 
at 1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ Formal advisory opinions of UNHCR are not binding on the 
United States, but they have been recognized as useful aids in 
interpreting the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol. See, e.g., INS 
v. Aguirre-Aguirre, 526 U.S. 415, 427-28 (1999).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

D. The U.S-Canada Agreement and Its Implementing Regulations

    Section 208(a)(2)(A) itself does not mandate a particular set of 
procedures for determining whether the section's requirements are 
satisfied--and thus whether an alien is barred from applying for 
asylum. The ample regulatory flexibility that section 208(a)(2)(A) 
affords the Departments has been utilized in the regulations 
implementing the U.S.-Canada Agreement.
    In those regulations, the Attorney General and Secretary made an 
across-the-board determination that all aliens removed to Canada 
pursuant to the U.S.-Canada Agreement would have ``access to a full and 
fair procedure'' for adjudicating their asylum claims within the 
meaning of INA section 208(a)(2)(A). In reaching that across-the-board 
finding, the Departments clarified that

[[Page 64001]]

``harmonization of asylum laws and procedures is not a prerequisite to 
entering into responsibility-sharing arrangements'' under INA section 
208(a)(2)(A). Implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of 
the United States of America and the Government of Canada Regarding 
Asylum Claims Made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR 
at 10620 (DHS) (proposed rule). Rather, ``[t]he salient factor is 
whether the countries sharing responsibility for refugee protection 
have laws and mechanisms in place that adhere to their international 
obligations to protect refugees.'' Id.
    In contrast to the categorical finding on the full-and-fair-
procedure requirement in the 2004 rule, the implementing regulations 
for the U.S.-Canada Agreement call for individualized determinations as 
to whether an alien falls within the terms of the Agreement, and, if 
so, whether the alien qualifies for one of the Agreement's exceptions. 
Specifically, with respect to ER, the regulations provide that, when an 
alien seeks to apply for asylum, the asylum officer must first 
determine whether the alien falls within one of the classes generally 
subject to the Agreement--that is, ``whether [the] alien arriv[ed] in 
the United States at a U.S.-Canada land border port-of-entry or in 
transit through the U.S. during removal by Canada.'' Implementation of 
the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America 
and the Government of Canada Regarding Asylum Claims Made in Transit 
and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 69489 (DHS) (codified at 8 
CFR 208.30(e)(6)). If so, the asylum officer must then determine 
whether ``the alien [can] establish[] by a preponderance of the 
evidence that he or she qualifies for an exception under the terms of 
the Agreement''--including the exception applicable where certain DHS 
officials have determined that it is in the public interest for the 
alien to have his asylum claim heard in the United States. Id. 
(codified at 8 CFR 208.30(e)(6)(ii), (iii)(F)).
    If the asylum officer determines that the alien is not subject to 
the Agreement, or meets an exception, the asylum officer proceeds to 
conduct a credible fear interview. Id. (codified at 8 CFR 
208.30(e)(6)(ii)). But if the asylum officer determines that the alien 
is subject to the Agreement, and does not meet an exception, the asylum 
officer submits his or her findings to a ``supervisory asylum 
officer.'' Id. (codified at 8 CFR 208.30(e)(6)(i)). If that supervisory 
officer concurs, the alien is barred from applying for asylum in the 
United States. And if the alien is so barred, he or she can be removed 
to Canada without any further administrative review by an IJ or the 
BIA. Asylum Claims Made by Aliens Arriving From Canada at Land Border 
Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 69496 (DOJ) (codified at 8 CFR 1003.42(h)).
    The regulations governing INA section 240 proceedings are similar. 
They require an IJ--after determining that an alien is inadmissible or 
deportable, but before assessing the merits of the alien's claims for 
asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the regulations 
implementing CAT--to determine whether the U.S.-Canada Agreement 
``appl[ies] to the alien'' and whether ``[t]he alien qualifies for an 
exception to the Agreement.'' Id. at 69497 (codified at 8 CFR 
1240.11(g)(2)(i)-(ii)). If the Agreement does not apply, or the alien 
meets an exception, the IJ assesses the alien's claims for relief as 
usual. Id. (codified at 8 CFR 1240.11(g)(1)). But if the Agreement 
applies, and the alien does not meet an exception, the IJ does not 
assess the merits of any potential statutory withholding-of-removal or 
CAT claim and instead may order the alien removed, with the proviso 
that the alien may apply for any other relief from removal for which 
the alien may be eligible. Id. (codified at 8 CFR 1240.11(g)(4)).

V. Detailed Discussion of Regulatory Changes

A. Summary of the New and Amended Regulatory Provisions and Their 
Import

    Despite the existence of regulations effectuating the U.S.-Canada 
Agreement within the ER and INA section 240 frameworks, this rule is 
necessary because several of the current implementing regulations are 
specific to the U.S.-Canada Agreement, see Implementation of the 
Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and 
the Government of Canada Regarding Asylum Claims Made in Transit and at 
Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 10620 (DHS) (proposed rule); id. 
at 69480 (DHS), and Canada is specially situated in a number of ways 
including its shared border with the United States. In addition, this 
rule provides for individualized screening of claims by aliens that 
they will face persecution or torture in the third country to which 
they would be removed pursuant to an ACA other than the U.S.-Canada 
Agreement.
    The scope of the U.S.-Canada Agreement, and, consequently, the 
U.S.-Canada Agreement regulations, is limited to aliens arriving at 
ports of entry along the U.S. border with Canada. In contrast, this 
generalized rule for the implementation of all ACAs (with countries 
other than Canada) will cover ACAs to the full extent permitted by 
section 208(a)(2)(A), which contains no limitation to only those aliens 
who have transited through the relevant third country or who arrive at 
ports of entry. To accommodate for the expanded applicability of the 
ACAs implemented under this current rule beyond the narrower class of 
aliens subject to the U.S.-Canada Agreement after traveling through 
Canada, this rule expands the threshold screening of aliens potentially 
subject to ACAs other than the U.S.-Canada Agreement. The rule gives 
aliens subject to an ACA an opportunity, during threshold screening, to 
establish that it would be ``more likely than not'' that the alien's 
life or freedom would be threatened in the third country on account of 
a protected ground or that the alien would be tortured in the third 
country. If DHS officers or IJs determine that an alien establishes 
such a fear by a preponderance of the evidence, the alien will not be 
removed to the third country pursuant to the ACA formed with that 
particular country. Cf. INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A) 
(eliminating the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States 
``if the Attorney General [or Secretary] determines that the alien may 
be removed, pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement, to a 
country (other than the country of the alien's nationality or, in the 
case of an alien having no nationality, the country of the alien's last 
habitual residence) in which the alien's life or freedom would not be 
threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a 
particular social group, or political opinion,'' among other required 
determinations described elsewhere in this rule).
    In contrast to many of the countries listed as potential countries 
of removal in section 241(b) of the INA, the third country to which an 
alien would be removed under an ACA is a country to which an alien does 
not necessarily have preexisting ties or any preexisting reason to fear 
persecution or torture. Compare INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 
1158(a)(2)(A), with INA 241(b)(1)-(2), 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(1)-(2). 
Moreover, unlike the countries to which aliens typically would be 
removed under section 241(b) of the INA, these third countries of 
removal would have pre-committed, per binding agreements with the 
United States, to provide access to a ``full and fair procedure'' for 
the alien to acquire ``asylum or equivalent temporary

[[Page 64002]]

protection,'' INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A). Aliens subject 
to an ACA thus would have an avenue for protection in the third country 
of removal not necessarily available in an INA section 241(b) country 
of removal--a country that may not have entered a binding agreement to 
provide the alien procedures for requesting safe haven and that may 
have originally prompted the alien's flight and application for asylum.
    This rule retains the existing regulations implementing the U.S.-
Canada Agreement, while also crafting a new regulatory framework under 
which other ACAs will be implemented. Even though the regulatory 
framework for implementation of the new ACAs will differ in some 
significant respects from the earlier 2004 regulations, in part for the 
reasons described above, this rule also replicates several key aspects 
of implementation of the U.S.-Canada Agreement. First, as with the 
regulatory scheme for the U.S.-Canada Agreement, prior to 
implementation of an ACA subject to this rule, the Departments will 
make a generalized determination as to whether the third country grants 
asylum seekers ``access to a full and fair procedure'' within the 
meaning of INA 208(a)(2)(A). This finding is required by the text of 
section 208(a)(2)(A), and the Departments will make the ``full and 
fair'' third country determination separate and apart from the 
regulatory provisions provided for here, to address this threshold 
statutory element that must be satisfied before any section 
208(a)(2)(A) bilateral or multilateral agreement is effectuated. 
Second, under this rule, there will be an individualized screening 
process within the preexisting ER and INA section 240 frameworks to 
evaluate whether an alien falls within the terms of an agreement and, 
if so, whether the alien nonetheless meets one of its exceptions. The 
statute also provides an exception to the terms of an ACA in the event 
that the Secretary determines in the Secretary's discretion that ``it 
is in the public interest for the alien to receive asylum in the United 
States.'' INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A). As under the U.S.-
Canada Agreement, the public interest exception is to be applied on a 
case-by-case basis, as a matter of discretion, to permit certain 
individuals to pursue applications for asylum or withholding of removal 
in the United States, where the Secretary or his immigration officers 
``find[] that it is in the public interest for the alien to receive 
asylum in the United States.'' See INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 
1158(a)(2)(A); cf. 8 CFR 208.30(e)(6)(iii)(F). Application of the 
exception is ``solely within the discretion of DHS.'' Asylum Claims 
Made by Aliens Arriving from Canada at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 
FR at 10628, 10630 (DOJ) (proposed rule); see also INA 208(a)(3), 8 
U.S.C. 1158(a)(3) (``No court shall have jurisdiction to review any 
determination of the Attorney General [or Secretary] under paragraph 
(2).'').
    As with the regulations implementing the U.S.-Canada Agreement, 
this rule will implement the statutory requirements into its threshold 
screening mechanism for evaluating which aliens are barred from 
applying for asylum under an ACA. The applicability of any additional 
limitations on the categories of aliens subject to the terms of a 
particular ACA will also be assessed during the initial screening. If 
an ACA is determined to be applicable to an alien applying for asylum, 
and the alien does not demonstrate that his life or freedom will more 
likely than not be threatened in the third country, the immigration 
officer may proceed to order removal without consideration of asylum, 
withholding-of-removal, or CAT claims, analogous to the U.S.-Canada 
Agreement removal arrangements. See Implementation of the Agreement 
Between the Government of the United States of America and the 
Government of Canada Regarding Asylum Claims Made in Transit and at 
Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 69481 (DHS) (``[A] careful reading 
of the Act makes clear that credible fear interviews are not required 
for aliens subject to [ACAs].'').
    The U.S.-Canada Agreement applies only to aliens who had arrived in 
the United States to seek asylum after traveling through Canada. 
However, the terms of section 208(a)(2)(A) do not limit the 
applicability of ACAs to aliens who have traveled through the third 
country in transit to the United States. Consequently, in contrast to 
the U.S.-Canada provisions, this rule provides that the screening 
procedures for ACAs with countries other than Canada (which, with one 
possible exception, would not be contiguous to the United States) will 
afford aliens an opportunity to establish that it is more likely than 
not that they would be persecuted or tortured if removed to the 
applicable third country. It provides an additional screening component 
enabling asylum officers and IJs to assess whether an alien who 
affirmatively states a fear of removal to the signatory country under 
an applicable ACA would more likely than not be persecuted or tortured 
in such country.

B. New 8 CFR 208.30(e)(7)

    The regulations at 8 CFR 208.30 govern interviews, conducted by DHS 
asylum officers, of stowaways and aliens subject to ER. See 8 CFR 
208.30(a). New paragraph (e)(7) requires an asylum officer, in an 
appropriate case, to make several threshold screening determinations 
before assessing the merits of an alien's claims for asylum, 
withholding of removal, or CAT protection. First, the asylum officer 
must determine whether the alien is subject to one or more ACAs. 
Second, if so, the officer must determine whether the alien meets any 
exception to the applicable agreement(s)--including the public-interest 
exception, which, under section 208(a)(2)(A), all ACAs must contain. If 
the alien is not subject to any ACA, or the alien meets an exception to 
each applicable agreement, the asylum officer will assess the merits of 
the alien's claims for relief as usual--that is, assess whether the 
alien has a credible fear of persecution or torture under existing 
paragraphs (e)(2) and (3). But if the alien is subject to an ACA, and 
does not meet any exception, the asylum officer will inform the alien 
that he or she is potentially subject to removal to the third country 
signatory to the relevant ACA, and that the third country, rather than 
the United States, will provide access to a full and fair procedure for 
adjudication of the alien's claims.
    After identifying the third country or countries to which the alien 
may be removed, if the alien does not affirmatively state a fear of 
persecution or torture in, or removal to, the country or countries, the 
asylum officer will refer the determination--i.e., that the alien is 
barred from applying for asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT 
protection in the United States, and subject to removal to the third 
country or countries--to a supervisory officer for review. If the 
supervisory asylum officer disagrees, that officer will remand the case 
to the asylum officer for a credible fear interview.
    If, on the other hand, the alien affirmatively states a fear of 
persecution or torture in, or removal to, the third country or 
countries, the asylum officer will then determine whether the alien can 
establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that, if the alien were 
removed to the third country or countries, it is more likely than not 
that he or she would be persecuted on account of a protected ground or 
tortured. If the officer determines the alien has met that burden, 
given that the alien has already been placed into ER proceedings, the 
officer will assess the

[[Page 64003]]

merits of the alien's claims for relief and protection as usual--i.e., 
conduct a normal credible fear interview. But if the officer determines 
the alien has not met that burden, the officer will refer the 
determination to a supervisory asylum officer for review.
    The threshold screening determinations under the U.S.-Canada 
Agreement regulatory procedures similarly incorporate a preponderance-
of-the-evidence standard. See 8 CFR 208.30(e)(6)(ii). As under the 
U.S.-Canada screening procedures, in making the threshold 
determinations discussed above, asylum officers ``will use all 
available evidence, including the individual's testimony, affidavits 
and other documentation, as well as available records and databases.'' 
Implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of the United 
States of America and the Government of Canada Regarding Asylum Claims 
Made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 10623 (DHS) 
(proposed rule); see also id. at 69482 (DHS) (``The Department has 
clarified, in the final rule, that the same safeguards accorded to 
aliens who are eligible for a credible fear determination will be 
accorded to aliens who receive threshold screening interviews.''). In 
the asylum officer's discretion, ``[c]redible testimony alone may be 
sufficient'' to meet the alien's burden ``if there is a satisfactory 
explanation of why corroborative documentation is not reasonably 
available.'' Implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of 
the United States of America and the Government of Canada Regarding 
Asylum Claims Made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR 
at 10623 (DHS) (proposed rule). Asylum officers have received 
``extensive training in evaluating credibility of testimony when there 
is little or no documentation in support of that testimony,'' id., and 
will apply that training to the threshold determination of whether an 
alien falls within the terms of an ACA or an exception and whether the 
alien has established a clear probability of persecution or torture in 
the third country.
    In contrast to the final rule implementing the U.S.-Canada 
Agreement that provided an alien with a minimal consultation period 
prior to the threshold screening interview to determine the 
applicability of the Agreement, this rule does not mandate such a 
period. See Implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of 
the United States of America and the Government of Canada Regarding 
Asylum Claims Made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR 
at 69482 (DHS) (providing a minimal consultation period but emphasizing 
that the consultation period would not permit the postponement of the 
threshold screening interview process so as not to ``compromise the 
principle underlying the Agreement that aliens be returned promptly to 
the country of last presence''). Rather, this rule expands the 
threshold screening process itself to allow for an alien to demonstrate 
that he or she is ``more likely than not'' to be subject to persecution 
on account of a protected ground or torture in the receiving country 
under the ACA.
    The bilateral ACAs that the United States has signed as of the 
effective date of this rule include agreements with El Salvador, 
Guatemala, and Honduras and incorporate fewer and less complex 
exceptions than the U.S.-Canada Agreement, eliminating the need for a 
consultation period analogous to the consultation period permitted by 
the U.S.-Canada Agreement.\11\ Further, this rule's expansion of the 
underlying threshold screening procedures to provide an opportunity for 
aliens to establish ``more likely than not'' persecution or torture in 
the receiving country provides additional process beyond that which is 
available under the regulations implementing the U.S.-Canada Agreement.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ Applicability of the exceptions at issue in the non-Canada 
ACAs generally can be evaluated through records checks and by asking 
straightforward biographic questions. Conversely, the exceptions to 
the U.S.-Canada Agreement required more detailed information from 
the alien, such as whether certain family members of the applicant 
are present in the United States, the immigration status of those 
family members, and whether the family members have pending asylum 
applications. See 8 CFR 208.30(e)(6)(iii)(A)-(F). Should the U.S. 
enter into additional ACAs in the future having exceptions that 
mirror the complexity of those contained in the U.S.-Canada 
Agreement, DHS could choose to establish consultation periods as 
needed.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Although section 208(a)(2)(A) is silent with respect to which party 
bears the burden of showing the applicability (or inapplicability) of 
the bar and the appropriate standard of proof for such a showing, 
section 208(b)(1) indicates that the ultimate burden of proof in 
establishing asylum eligibility is on the applicant. See INA 
208(b)(1)(A)-(B), 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(1)(A)-(B) (authorizing a grant of 
asylum to an alien who meets the burden of establishing that he or she 
is a refugee). Moreover, the section 208(a)(2)(A) language regarding 
protection against harm from the third country of removal is parallel 
to the section 241(b)(3) language establishing withholding-of-removal 
protection with respect to the typical potential countries of removal 
specified by INA sections 241(b)(1) and (2). When evaluating whether an 
alien is entitled to withholding of removal under INA 241(b)(3) or 
evaluating a claim for protection under the regulations implementing 
CAT, an IJ addresses whether an alien has established the relevant fear 
by a preponderance of the evidence. See 8 CFR 1208.16(b)-(c). It is 
therefore reasonable to require an alien to show, by a preponderance of 
the evidence, that he or she meets an exception to an otherwise 
applicable ACA, and that he or she would face harm in the third 
country. See Implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of 
the United States of America and the Government of Canada Regarding 
Asylum Claims Made in Transit and at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR 
at 69483 (DHS) (reasoning that, because ``applicants for asylum, 
withholding of removal, and protection under [CAT] bear the burden of 
proof,'' it is reasonable for aliens to bear ``the burden of proof for 
purposes of establishing that an exception to the [U.S.-Canada] 
Agreement applies'').

C. Amended 8 CFR 1003.42(h)(1)-(2) and New 8 CFR 1003.42(h)(3)-(4)

    This rule will amend 8 CFR 1003.42(h) to reflect the implementation 
of ACAs other than the U.S.-Canada Agreement. In particular, the rule 
will make technical amendments to 8 CFR 1003.42(h)(1) and (2) to 
clarify that those paragraphs apply to only the preexisting U.S.-Canada 
Agreement. The rule creates new 8 CFR 1003.42(h)(3) and (4) to reflect 
the distinction that the threshold officer screening in the non-Canada 
ACAs includes an opportunity for the alien to establish that it is more 
likely than not that he or she would be persecuted on account of a 
protected ground or tortured. Under the new paragraph (h)(3), an IJ is 
prohibited from reviewing an officer's determination that section 
208(a)(2)(A) bars an alien from applying for asylum. But an IJ acquires 
jurisdiction to review a negative credible fear finding in any case 
where an alien either establishes that he or she qualifies for an ACA 
exception, or establishes more-likely-than-not harm in the relevant 
third country, thus prohibiting the application of the ACA to that 
alien. (In such a case, the asylum officer would apply typical credible 
fear screening to the alien, giving an IJ jurisdiction to review a 
negative finding by that officer.) The new (h)(4) clarifies that an 
alien subject to removal under an ACA is ineligible to apply for 
withholding-of-removal and CAT relief in the United States, along with 
asylum, as explained in the detailed legal background section of the 
rule.

[[Page 64004]]

    This IFR preserves the general review framework currently 
underlying 8 CFR 1003.42(h)(1), which provides that an IJ lacks 
jurisdiction to review an asylum officer's determination that the U.S.-
Canada Agreement bars an alien from applying for asylum in the United 
States and makes them removable to Canada for adjudication of his or 
her claim for asylum or equivalent protection. In proposing a framework 
for implementing the U.S.-Canada Agreement, DOJ noted that, in a given 
case, the asylum officer would be making an individualized 
determination only as to whether the Agreement (or any of its 
exceptions) applied to the alien. Asylum Claims Made by Aliens Arriving 
from Canada at Land Border Ports-of-Entry, 69 FR at 10630 (DOJ) 
(proposed rule). Given the ``narrowness of the factual issues'' 
underlying such a determination, DOJ determined that review by an IJ 
was unnecessary. Id.
    DOJ suggested the analysis might be different if an asylum officer 
were evaluating ``the merits of an . . . alien's asylum claims.'' Id. 
And under this IFR, an asylum officer does need to determine whether 
the alien would more likely than not be persecuted or tortured in the 
third country to which he or she would be removed under an ACA. But 
when evaluating an asylum claim on the merits, an asylum officer or IJ 
is often forced to make a complex assessment as to whether wrongs done 
to the asylum seeker (or those similarly situated) in the asylum 
seeker's home country were motivated by animus against a protected 
group or some other factor. In contrast, evaluating whether an asylum 
seeker would face persecution or torture in a country to which he has 
no substantial connections is more straightforward. The third country 
with which the United States has formed an ACA is, by definition, not 
an alien's country of nationality or last habitual residence. See INA 
208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A) (authorizing ACA removal only to 
countries other than that of the alien's nationality or last habitual 
residence, if the alien has no nationality). And, thus, the country of 
removal under an ACA is not the country originally prompting the asylum 
seeker's claim, unlike the potential countries of removal under section 
241(b)(1)-(2) to which section 241(b)(3) withholding of removal claims 
are directed, see 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(1)-(2) (providing, e.g., for an 
alien to be removed to the country in which he or she boarded a vessel 
or aircraft to reach the United States or the country in which he or 
she is a citizen or was born or has a residence). Because the ACA 
country of removal did not prompt the alien's claim, the process for 
determining simply whether to send the alien to a third country for 
that consideration is reasonably more minimalistic than the requisite 
procedures for deciding asylum and withholding of removal claims on the 
merits.
    Finally, Congress chose not to mandate IJ review of decisions as to 
whether an alien is subject to an ACA. Yet, in the same legislation 
creating section 208(a)(2)(A), Congress created the ER process. See 
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, 
Public Law 104-208, sec. 302 and 604, 110 Stat. 3009-546, -579, -690. 
And in that process, Congress expressly mandated IJ review (at the 
request of the alien) of a negative credible fear determination by an 
asylum officer. Compare INA 208(a)(2)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A) with 
INA 235(b)(1)(B)(iii)(III), 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(B)(iii)(III). That 
difference strongly suggests that Congress did not intend to require IJ 
review of decisions by asylum officers as to whether aliens are barred 
from applying for asylum under section 208(a)(2)(A).
    Therefore, it is unnecessary--and indeed would be inconsistent with 
the INA removal statutory scheme--to mandate IJ review of a 
determination that section 208(a)(2)(A) bars an alien from applying for 
asylum. In section 208(a)(2)(A), Congress authorized the Executive 
Branch to operate within the President's foreign affairs authority to 
enter international agreements more evenly distributing the load of 
providing access to potential asylum for international refugees and 
asylees. By its terms, section 208(a)(2)(A) preserves flexibility for 
the Executive Branch in entering such agreements. The provision imposes 
two clear requirements, limiting such international agreements only to 
countries that provide access to full and fair protection procedures 
and are places in which an alien's life or freedom would not be harmed 
on account of a protected ground. Beyond those specifications, the 
Executive Branch's utilization of its statutory authority under section 
208(a)(2)(A) is subject to no express procedural stipulations.
    In any event, this rule preserves unchanged the existing credible 
fear process itself, including the statutorily required availability of 
review by an IJ. So, if an asylum officer determines that an alien 
subject to the terms of an ACA bar would more likely than not be 
persecuted or tortured in the third country or, for any reason, that 
the ACA does not prohibit the alien's U.S. asylum application, the 
officer will then proceed immediately to a credible fear determination. 
If necessary, as required by statute and preexisting regulations, an IJ 
will conduct a review of this determination.

D. Amended 8 CFR 1240.11(g) and New 8 CFR 1240.11(h)

    This rule will amend 8 CFR 1240.11(g) to reflect that the section 
will now apply only to the U.S.-Canada Agreement. The rule will also 
create a new 8 CFR 1240.11(h) to provide for the implementation of all 
other existing and future ACAs within the context of section 240 
proceedings. Similar to the threshold determinations that asylum 
officers must make in ER proceedings, as described above, this new 
regulatory section will require IJs to determine whether an alien falls 
within an exception to an otherwise applicable ACA, and will authorize 
IJs to provide an alien subject to the terms of an ACA an opportunity 
to establish that it is more likely than not that the alien would be 
persecuted on account of a protected ground or tortured in the 
applicable third country.

VI. Regulatory Requirements

A. Administrative Procedure Act

    The Departments' decision to promulgate the regulations 
implementing the U.S.-Canada Agreement through formal notice-and-
comment rulemaking does not obligate the Departments to do so here. 
See, e.g., Hoctor v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 82 F.3d 165, 171-72 (7th 
Cir. 1996) (observing that courts should ``attach no weight'' to an 
agency's varied approaches to the use of notice-and-comment rulemaking 
involving similar rules and that ``there is nothing in the 
[Administrative Procedure Act (``APA'')] to forbid an agency to use the 
notice and comment procedure in cases in which it is not required to do 
so''); Indep. Living Res. v. Or. Arena Corp., 982 F. Supp. 698, 744 
n.62 (D. Or. 1997) (``There are many reasons why an agency may 
voluntarily elect to utilize notice and comment rulemaking . . . .''). 
For the reasons that follow, the Departments are issuing this rule as 
an interim final rule pursuant to the APA's exemption from notice-and-
comment requirements for rules involving ``foreign affairs 
function[s]'' and the ``good cause'' exception for rules with respect 
to which ``notice and public procedure'' is ``impracticable, 
unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.'' 5 U.S.C. 553(a)(1), 
(b)(B).

[[Page 64005]]

1. Foreign Affairs Exemption
    The Departments may forgo notice-and-comment procedures and a delay 
in the effective date of this rule because the rule involves a 
``foreign affairs function of the United States,'' and thus is exempt 
from the procedural requirements of 5 U.S.C. 553. See id. 553(a)(1). 
This rule puts into effect ACAs already negotiated with El Salvador, 
Guatemala, and Honduras, and will remove obstacles to successfully 
negotiating ACAs with other countries. This rule is thus similar to 
others that courts have determined are within the scope of the foreign 
affairs exemption and is likewise exempt from notice-and-comment 
rulemaking requirements and the required delay in the effective date. 
See, e.g., Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters v. Pe[ntilde]a, 17 F.3d 1478, 1486 
(D.C. Cir. 1994) (holding that a Federal Highway Administration rule 
``implement[ing] an agreement between the United States and Mexico'' 
was necessary for the United States to avoid ``reneging on [its] 
international obligations'' and thus was appropriately promulgated 
under the foreign affairs exemption of the APA); City of New York v. 
Permanent Mission of India to United Nations, 618 F.3d 172, 201 (2d 
Cir. 2010) (quoting the description of the purpose of the foreign 
affairs exemption in H.R. Rep. No. 79-1980, at 23 (1946)).
    This rule will facilitate ongoing diplomatic negotiations with 
foreign countries regarding migration issues, including measures to 
control the flow of aliens into the United States. See City of New 
York, 618 F.3d at 201 (finding that rules related to diplomacy with a 
potential impact on U.S. relations with specific other countries fall 
within the scope of the foreign affairs exemption). Those ongoing 
discussions relate to proposals for increased efforts by third 
countries to help reduce the flow of illegal aliens north to the United 
States and to join the United States in shouldering the load of 
providing asylum procedures, and possible relief or protection, to the 
migrants from around the world flocking to U.S. borders. See Yassini v. 
Crosland, 618 F.2d 1356, 1361 (9th Cir. 1980) (per curiam) (because an 
immigration directive ``was implementing the President's foreign 
policy,'' the action ``fell within the foreign affairs function and 
good cause exceptions to the notice and comment requirements of the 
APA'').
    In the latter half of 2019, U.S. officials entered into agreements 
with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras pursuant to INA 208(a)(2)(A). 
U.S. officials remain in negotiations with other nations to enter into 
additional ACAs. Delaying the implementation of the rule due to notice-
and-comment rulemaking could impact the ability of the United States to 
negotiate by creating uncertainty about the regulatory framework that 
the United States will have in place to carry out such agreements. See 
East Bay I, 909 F.3d at 1252-53 (suggesting that reliance on the 
exemption is justified where the Government ``explain[s] how immediate 
publication of the Rule, instead of announcement of a proposed rule 
followed by a thirty-day period of notice and comment'' is necessary in 
light of the Government's foreign affairs efforts). Potential 
signatories to such agreements may be more hesitant to negotiate with 
the United States and to rely on a commitment by the United States to 
meet the terms of negotiated agreements if the regulatory framework to 
carry out such agreements is uncertain and not yet in place.
    The terms of some of the current ACAs have been contingent on the 
signing countries exchanging diplomatic notes certifying that each 
country has put in place the legal framework necessary to effectuate 
and operationalize the agreement. The United States will have a 
stronger negotiating position in entering additional agreements if a 
domestic regulatory framework is already in effect during the 
negotiations. The circumstances of the U.S.-Canada Agreement underscore 
this reality, as a period of nearly two years passed between the 
formation of the agreement and its effectuation through the 
promulgation of final rules. That delay was not as problematic in the 
context of U.S.-Canada relations, as comparatively few aliens are 
subject to the U.S.-Canada Agreement. In contrast, a far greater number 
of aliens arriving at the southern border will be affected by the non-
Canada ACAs currently under development. To bring the numbers of U.S. 
asylum applicants to a more manageable level, and to have a strong 
negotiating position with other potential third countries, the United 
States needs the flexibility to effectuate the current ACAs much more 
rapidly than the two-year time period that transpired between the 
signing and execution of the U.S.-Canada Agreement. Further, countries 
that sign ACAs with the United States may be deterred from sustaining 
their commitments to the agreements if the United States materially 
delays its operationalization after representing to those countries 
that their entry into these agreements is an urgent U.S. priority. Cf. 
E. Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Trump, 932 F.3d 742, 776 (9th Cir. 2018) 
(``East Bay I'') (``Hindering the President's ability to implement a 
new policy in response to a current foreign affairs crisis is the type 
of `definitely undesirable international consequence' that warrants 
invocation of the foreign affairs exception.'').
    Similarly, a delayed effective date for the rule may weaken the 
facility of the United States to pursue the negotiating strategy it 
deems to be most appropriate as it engages its foreign partners. See, 
e.g., Am. ***'n of Exps. & Imps.-Textile & Apparel Grp. v. United 
States, 751 F.2d 1239, 1249 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (the foreign affairs 
exemption facilitates ``more cautious and sensitive consideration of 
those matters which so affect relations with other Governments that . . 
. public rule-making provisions would provoke definitely undesirable 
international consequences'' (internal quotation marks omitted)). In 
addition, addressing this crisis will be more effective and less 
disruptive to long-term U.S. relations with Mexico \12\ and the 
Northern Triangle countries the sooner that this interim final rule is 
in place, as it will help address the enormous flow of aliens through 
these countries to the southern border, where aliens seeking ultimately 
meritless asylum claims continue to strain resources and contribute to 
a national security and humanitarian crisis. Cf. id. (``The timing of 
an announcement of new consultations or quotas may be linked intimately 
with the Government's overall political agenda concerning relations 
with another country.''). Further, the efficient implementation of this 
interim rule will improve the ability of the United States to negotiate 
successfully with these and potentially other countries. See Rajah v. 
Mukasey, 544 F.3d 427, 438 (2d Cir. 2008) (finding that the notice-and-
comment process can be ``slow and cumbersome,'' which can negatively 
affect efforts to secure U.S. national interests, thereby justifying 
application of the foreign affairs exemption).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ The United States and Mexico have been engaged in ongoing 
discussions regarding both regional and bilateral approaches to 
asylum. See, e.g., Secretary Nielsen Meets with Mexican Officials on 
Border Emergency, Travels to Honduras to Meet with Northern Triangle 
Governments to Address Crisis at Source (Mar. 26, 2019), available 
at http://www.dhs.gov/news/2019/03/26/secretary-nielsen-meets-mexican-officials-border-emergency-travels-honduras-meet.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This rule supports the President's foreign policy with respect to 
Mexico, the Northern Triangle countries, and other potential partner 
countries in this area and thus is exempt from the notice-and-comment 
and delayed-effective-

[[Page 64006]]

date requirements in 5 U.S.C. 553. See Am. ***'n of Exps. & Imps.-
Textile & Apparel Grp., 751 F.2d at 1249; Yassini, 618 F.2d at 1361.
    Invoking the APA's foreign affairs exemption is also consistent 
with past rulemakings. In 2016, for example, in response to diplomatic 
developments between the United States and Cuba, DHS changed its 
regulations concerning flights to and from the island via an 
immediately effective interim final rule. Flights to and From Cuba, 81 
FR 14948, 14952 (Mar. 21, 2016). In a similar vein, DHS, in 
consultation with the Department of State, recently provided notice 
that it was eliminating an exception to expedited removal for certain 
Cuban nationals. The document explained that the change in policy was 
consistent with the foreign affairs exemption for rules subject to 
notice-and-comment requirements because the change was central to 
ongoing negotiations between the two countries. Eliminating Exception 
To Expedited Removal Authority for Cuban Nationals Encountered in the 
United States or Arriving by Sea, 82 FR 4902, 4904-05 (Jan. 17, 2017).
    Some courts have layered onto the foreign affairs exemption a 
requirement that the agency show not merely that the rule implicates 
foreign affairs, but also that the use of notice-and-comment procedures 
would ``provoke definitely undesirable international consequences.'' 
See, e.g., East Bay I, 932 F.3d at 775-76 (internal quotation marks 
omitted). As explained above, even this constraint on application of 
the APA foreign affairs exemption is satisfied here, as a delayed 
effective date for this rule could have far-reaching consequences for 
the strength of the negotiating position of the United States in 
relation to potential signatories of future ACAs.
2. Good Cause Exception
    Alternatively, the Departments may forgo notice-and-comment 
rulemaking and a delayed effective date while this rulemaking is 
published in the Federal Register for public comment, because the APA 
provides an exception from those requirements when an agency ``for good 
cause finds . . . that notice and public procedure thereon are 
impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.'' 5 
U.S.C. 553(b)(B); see 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). This exception relieves 
agencies of notice-and-comment requirements in urgent situations, or in 
circumstances where ``the delay created by the notice and comment 
requirements would result in serious damage to important interests.'' 
Woods Psychiatric Inst. v. United States, 20 Cl. Ct. 324, 333 (1990), 
aff'd, 925 F.2d 1454 (Fed. Cir. 1991); see also Nat'l Fed'n of Fed. 
Emps. v. Devine, 671 F.2d 607, 611-12 (D.C. Cir. 1982); United States 
v. Dean, 604 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2010). On multiple occasions, 
agencies have relied on this exception to promulgate immigration-
related interim rules.\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ See, e.g., Visas: Documentation of Nonimmigrants Under the 
Immigration and Nationality Act, as Amended, 81 FR 5906, 5907 (Feb. 
4, 2016) (interim rule citing good cause to immediately require a 
passport and visa from certain H2-A Caribbean agricultural workers 
to avoid ``an increase in applications for admission in bad faith by 
persons who would otherwise have been denied visas and are seeking 
to avoid the visa requirement and consular screening process during 
the period between the publication of a proposed and a final 
rule''); Suspending the 30-Day and Annual Interview Requirements 
From the Special Registration Process for Certain Nonimmigrants, 68 
FR 67578, 67581 (Dec. 2, 2003) (interim rule claiming the good cause 
exception for suspending certain automatic registration requirements 
for nonimmigrants because ``without [the] regulation approximately 
82,532 aliens would be subject to 30-day or annual re-registration 
interviews'' over a six-month period).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Departments have concluded that the good cause exceptions in 5 
U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and (d)(3) apply to this rule. Delaying implementation 
of this rule until the conclusion of notice-and-comment procedures and 
the 30-day delayed effective date would be impracticable and contrary 
to the public interest. In rejecting challenges to the prior use of 
interim rules, courts have cited evidence that pre-publication of a 
significant change in asylum procedures will cause migrants to rush to 
U.S. borders. See East Bay I, 354 F. Supp. 3d 1094, 1115 (N.D. Cal. 
2018) (concluding that the Government was ``likely to prevail on its 
claim regarding the good cause exception'' in the context of a November 
2018 interim rule barring asylum eligibility for aliens who, in 
violation of a Presidential proclamation, enter between ports of 
entry); cf. Barr v. East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, (``East Bay II''), No. 
19A230, 588 U.S. __ (Sept. 11, 2019) (granting, without explanation, a 
stay on appeal from a circuit court order that had concluded, in part, 
that the Government had inadequately justified reliance on the good 
cause and foreign affairs APA exemptions in promulgating an IFR). 
Would-be asylum applicants have a strong incentive to intensify their 
efforts to rapidly reach the U.S. border when the United States 
announces a regulatory change that will impact asylum applications. 
See, e.g., Mobil Oil Corp. v. Dep't of Energy, 728 F.2d 1477, 1492 
(Temp. Emer. Ct. App. 1983) (concluding that good cause exists when 
``the very announcement'' of a rule could ``be expected to precipitate 
activity by affected parties that would harm the public welfare''); see 
also id. (collecting cases).
    Here, the announcement that the United States has arranged for 
other countries to consider certain protection applications, in lieu of 
any ability to apply for protection within the United States itself, 
would create a perceived urgency for aliens to enter the United States 
illegally or apply for admission without proper documentation before 
the ACAs take effect. The implementation of ACAs would require 
significant numbers of aliens to file applications for protection in 
third countries rather than the United States. Recent events have shown 
that knowledge of this kind of impending change is highly likely to 
cause a dramatic increase in the numbers of aliens who enter or attempt 
to enter the United States to file asylum applications before the 
effective date of the change. For example, over a one-year period from 
2018 to 2019, southwestern-border family-unit apprehensions rose 469 
percent. See Application for a Stay Pending Appeal at 24, Barr v. East 
Bay Sanctuary Covenant, No. 19A230 (U.S. Aug. 26, 2019) (``Stay 
Application, East Bay II'') (citing Administrative Record at 233, East 
Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Barr, No. 19-cv-04073-JST (N.D. Cal. 2019) 
(``A.R., East Bay II''). And numerous news articles connect such recent 
surges to changes in immigration policy. See Stay Application, East Bay 
II, at 25 (citing A.R., East Bay II, at 438-39 (describing how 
smugglers persuaded migrants to cross the border after family 
separation was halted by telling the migrants to ``hurry up before they 
might start doing so again''); id. at 452-54 (indicating that migrants 
refused offers to stay in Mexico because their goal is to enter the 
United States); id. at 663-665, 683 (indicating that Mexico faced a 
migrant surge when it changed its policies)).
    Further, as courts have recognized, smugglers encourage migrants to 
enter the United States based on changes in U.S. immigration policy, 
and, in fact, ``the number of asylum seekers entering as families has 
risen'' in a way that ``suggests a link to knowledge of those 
policies.'' East Bay, 354 F. Supp. 3d at 1115. If this rule were 
published for notice and comment before becoming effective, ``smugglers 
might similarly communicate th[is] Rule's potentially relevant change 
in U.S. immigration policy,'' id., and the risk of a surge in migrants 
hoping to enter the country before the rule becomes effective supports 
a finding of good cause under 5 U.S.C. 553.

[[Page 64007]]

    Past experience shows that individuals inside and outside of the 
United States change their behavior in anticipation of changes to U.S. 
immigration laws. For example, Central American officials reported that 
after President Donald Trump's victory in the November 2016 election, 
Central Americans began ``crossing illegally into the U.S. at the 
fastest rate in years, many of them hoping to sneak in before Donald 
Trump's presidential inauguration and the heightened border-security 
measures he has promised.'' Robbie Whelan, Central Americans Surge at 
Border Before Trump Takes Over, Wall Street Journal (Dec. 23, 2016), 
http://www.wsj.com/articles/central-americans-surge-at-border-before-trump-takes-over-1482489047. Honduras's deputy foreign minister 
attested, ``We're worried because we're seeing a rise in the flow of 
migrants leaving the country, who have been urged to leave by coyotes 
telling them that they have to reach the United States before Trump 
takes office.'' Gustavo Palencia & Sofia Menchu, Central Americans 
Surge North, Hoping To Reach U.S. Before Trump Inauguration, Reuters 
(Nov. 24, 2016), http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-immigration-centralamerica/central-americans-surge-north-hoping-to-reach-u-s-before-trump-inauguration-idUSKBN13J2A7 (internal quotation 
marks omitted). Guatemala's foreign minister similarly stated that 
people were ``leaving Guatemala en masse before Trump becomes 
president.'' Id.
    The enactment of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration 
Responsibility Act (``IIRIRA''), Public Law 104-208, div. C, 110 Stat. 
3009-546 (1996), similarly prompted immigrants to change their behavior 
and seek to take advantage of the pre-IIRIRA rules. IIRIRA made several 
changes to asylum law. For example, it added three categorical bars to 
asylum: (1) Aliens who can be removed to a safe third country pursuant 
to bilateral or multilateral agreement; (2) aliens who failed to apply 
for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States; and (3) 
aliens who have previously applied for asylum and had the application 
denied. INA 208(a)(2)(A)-(C), 8 U.S.C. 1158(a)(2)(A)-(C). IIRIRA also 
provided that aggravated felonies, defined in INA 101(a)(43), 8 U.S.C. 
1101(a)(43), would be considered ``particularly serious crime[s]'' that 
render an alien ineligible for asylum. INA 208(b)(2)(B)(i), 8 U.S.C. 
1158(b)(2)(B)(i). IIRIRA was signed into law on September 30, 1996, see 
President William Jefferson Clinton, Statement on Signing H.R. 3610, 
the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 1997 (Sept. 30, 1996), but did not take 
effect until April 1, 1997. Data shows a large spike in asylum 
applications filed just before IIRIRA went into effect and a large dip 
the week it went into effect. See Initial Asylum Receipts by Week, 
April 1, 1994, to March 31, 1997, PASD #19-227, Planning, Analysis, and 
Statistics Division, EOIR (recording 52 successive weeks with fewer 
than 3,000 total ``[i]nitial [a]sylum [r]eceipts,'' spiking to an 
intake of 4,448 new asylum cases the week of Monday, March 24, 1997, 
and then dipping back down to just 1,099 new cases the week of March 
31, 1997). This suggests that some asylum seekers that would have 
otherwise applied in April may have instead applied in March to avoid 
IIRIRA's new rules on asylum.
    In addition to the factual basis for reliance on the good cause 
exception here, in light of these numerous examples in which 
announcements of U.S. immigration policy changes immediately impacted 
migrant behavior, application of the exception here comports with 
repeated agency practice. For example, in January 2017, DHS concluded 
that it was imperative to give immediate effect to a rule designating 
Cuban nationals arriving by air as eligible for expedited removal 
because ``[p]re-promulgation notice and comment would . . . endanger[ ] 
human life and hav[e] a potential destabilizing effect in the region.'' 
Eliminating Exception to Expedited Removal Authority for Cuban 
Nationals Arriving by Air, 82 FR 4769, 4770 (Jan. 17, 2017). DHS cited 
the prospect that ``publication of the rule as a proposed rule, which 
would signal a significant change in policy while permitting 
continuation of the exception for Cuban nationals, could lead to a 
surge in migration of Cuban nationals seeking to travel to and enter 
the United States during the period between the publication of a 
proposed and a final rule.'' Id. DHS found that ``[s]uch a surge would 
threaten national security and public safety by diverting valuable 
Government resources from counterterrorism and homeland security 
responsibilities. A surge could also have a destabilizing effect on the 
region, thus weakening the security of the United States and 
threatening its international relations.'' Id. DHS concluded that ``a 
surge could result in significant loss of human life.'' Id.
    Reliance on the good cause exception in effecting immediate changes 
in immigration policy is not a new practice. In 2004, for example, DHS 
relied on the exception to immediately expand ER to further national 
security and deter dangerous migrant travel. See, e.g., Designating 
Aliens For Expedited Removal, 69 FR 48877 (Aug. 11, 2004); see also, 
e.g., Visas: Documentation of Nonimmigrants Under the Immigration and 
Nationality Act, as Amended, 81 FR at 5907 (finding the good cause 
exception applicable because of similar concerns).
    DOJ and DHS raised similar concerns and drew similar conclusions in 
the July 2019 joint interim final rule that limited asylum eligibility 
for aliens who had transited to the United States through a third 
country without applying for available asylum relief. Asylum 
Eligibility and Procedural Modifications, 84 FR 33829, 33840-41 (July 
16, 2019); see also, e.g., Aliens Subject to a Bar on Entry Under 
Certain Presidential Proclamations; Procedures for Protection Claims, 
83 FR 55934, 55950-51 (Nov. 9, 2018) (also relying on the good cause 
exception). As noted above, the Supreme Court granted (without 
explanation) a stay of a lower court decision that had ruled against 
use of an IFR to promulgate the third-country-transit requirement.
    These same concerns apply to this rule to an even greater extent. 
Pre-promulgation notice and comment, or a delay in the effective date, 
would jeopardize the lives and welfare of aliens who could surge to the 
border to enter the United States before the rule limiting asylum 
applications took effect. See East Bay I, 354 F. Supp. 3d at 1115 
(citing a newspaper article suggesting that such a rush to the border 
occurred due to knowledge of a pending regulatory change in immigration 
law). Furthermore, an additional surge of aliens seeking to enter via 
the southern border prior to the effective date of this rule would be 
destabilizing to the region, as well as to the U.S. immigration system. 
In recent years, there has been a massive increase in the number of 
aliens who assert a fear of persecution. This massive increase is 
overwhelming the U.S. immigration system as a result of a variety of 
factors, including the extraordinary proportion of aliens who are 
initially found to have a credible fear and therefore are referred to 
full removal proceedings in immigration court; a lack of detention 
space; and the resulting high rate of release into the interior of the 
United States of aliens with a positive credible fear determination, 
many of whom then abscond without pursuing their asylum claims to a 
final conclusion and become difficult to locate and remove. Recent 
initiatives to track family-unit cases in 10 cities and from Sept. 24, 
2018, through October 25, 2019, revealed that 79 percent of removal 
orders were

[[Page 64008]]

issued in absentia--i.e., were issued to an alien who had absconded. A 
large additional influx of aliens who intend to enter illegally or to 
apply for admission without proper documentation would exacerbate this 
crisis. This concern is particularly acute in the current climate in 
which illegal immigration flows fluctuate significantly in response to 
news events. Therefore, this interim final rule is a practical and 
necessary means to address the time-sensitive influx of aliens and 
avoid creating an even larger short-term influx.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act, 5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., as amended by 
the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, 
requires an agency to prepare and make available to the public a 
regulatory flexibility analysis that describes the effect of the rule 
on small entities (i.e., small businesses, small organizations, and 
small governmental jurisdictions). A regulatory flexibility analysis is 
not required when a rule is exempt from notice-and-comment rulemaking.

C. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

    This interim final rule will not result in the expenditure by 
state, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the 
private sector, of $100 million or more in any one year, and it will 
not significantly or uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no 
actions were deemed necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded 
Mandates Reform Act of 1995.

D. Congressional Review Act

    This interim final rule is not a major rule as defined by section 
804 of the Congressional Review Act. 5 U.S.C. 804. This rule will not 
result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a 
major increase in costs or prices; or significant adverse effects on 
competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or on 
the ability of United States-based companies to compete with foreign-
based companies in domestic and export markets.

E. Executive Order 12866, Executive Order 13563, and Executive Order 
13771 (Regulatory Planning and Review)

    This rule is not subject to Executive Order 12866 as it is 
implicates a foreign affairs function of the United States relating to 
ongoing discussions with implications for a set of specified 
international relationships. As this is not a regulatory action under 
Executive Order 12866, it is not subject to Executive Order 13771.

F. Executive Order 13132 (Federalism)

    This rule will not have substantial direct effects on the States, 
on the relationship between the national government and the States, or 
on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various 
levels of government. Therefore, in accordance with section 6 of 
Executive Order 13132, it is determined that this rule does not have 
sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a 
federalism summary impact statement.

G. Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform)

    This rule meets the applicable standards set forth in section 3(a) 
and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988.

H. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not propose new, or revisions to existing, 
``collection[s] of information'' as that term is defined under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13, 44 U.S.C. chapter 
35, and its implementing regulations, 5 CFR part 1320.

List of Subjects

8 CFR Part 208

    Administrative practice and procedure, Aliens, Immigration, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

8 CFR Part 1003

    Administrative practice and procedure, Aliens, Immigration, Legal 
Services, Organization and functions (Government agencies).

8 CFR Part 1208

    Administrative practice and procedure, Aliens, Immigration, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

8 CFR Part 1240

    Administrative practice and procure, Aliens.

Regulatory Amendments

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

    Accordingly, for the reasons set forth in the preamble, the 
Secretary of Homeland Security amends 8 CFR part 208 as follows:

PART 208--PROCEDURES FOR ASYLUM AND WITHHOLDING OF REMOVAL

0
1. The authority citation for part 208 continues to read as follows

    Authority:  8 U.S.C. 1101, 1103, 1158, 1226, 1252, 1282; Title 
of Public Law 110-229, 8 CFR part 2.


0
2. Section 208.4 is amended by revising paragraph (a)(6) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  208.4   Filing the application.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (6) Asylum Cooperative Agreements. Immigration officers have 
authority to apply section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act, relating to the 
determination that the alien may be removed to a third country pursuant 
to a bilateral or multilateral agreement, as provided in Sec.  
208.30(e). For provisions relating to the authority of immigration 
judges with respect to section 208(a)(2)(A), see 8 CFR 1240.11(g) and 
(h).
* * * * *

0
3. Section 208.30 is amended by revising paragraph (e)(7) and adding 
paragraph (e)(8) to read as follows:


Sec.  208.30   Credible fear determinations involving stowaways and 
applicants for admission who are found inadmissible pursuant to section 
212(a)(6)(C) or 212(a)(7) of the Act, whose entry is limited or 
suspended under section 212(f) or 215(a)(1) of the Act, or who failed 
to apply for protection from persecution in a third country where 
potential relief is available while en route to the United States.

* * * * *
    (e) * * *
    (7) When an immigration officer has made an initial determination 
that an alien, other than an alien described in paragraph (e)(6) of 
this section and regardless of whether the alien is arriving at a port 
of entry, appears to be subject to the terms of an agreement authorized 
by section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act, and seeks the alien's removal 
consistent with this provision, prior to any determination concerning 
whether the alien has a credible fear of persecution or torture, the 
asylum officer shall conduct a threshold screening interview to 
determine whether the alien is ineligible to apply for asylum in the 
United States and is subject to removal to a country (``receiving 
country'') that is a signatory to the applicable agreement authorized 
by section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act, other than the U.S.-Canada 
Agreement effectuated in 2004. In conducting this threshold screening 
interview, the asylum officer shall apply all relevant

[[Page 64009]]

interview procedures outlined in paragraph (d) of this section, except 
that paragraphs (d)(2) and (4) of this section shall not apply to 
aliens described in this paragraph (e)(7). The asylum officer shall 
advise the alien of the applicable agreement's exceptions and question 
the alien as to applicability of any of these exceptions to the alien's 
case. The alien shall be provided written notice that if he or she 
fears removal to the prospective receiving country because of the 
likelihood of persecution on account of a protected ground or torture 
in that country and wants the officer to determine whether it is more 
likely than not that the alien would be persecuted on account of a 
protected ground or tortured in that country, the alien should 
affirmatively state to the officer such a fear of removal. If the alien 
affirmatively states such a fear, the asylum officer will determine 
whether the individual has demonstrated that it is more likely than not 
that he or she would be persecuted on account of a protected ground or 
tortured in that country.
    (i)(A) If the asylum officer, with concurrence from a supervisory 
asylum officer, determines during the threshold screening interview 
that an alien does not qualify for an exception under the applicable 
agreement, and, if applicable, that the alien has not demonstrated that 
it is more likely than not that he or she would be persecuted on 
account of a protected ground or tortured in the receiving country, the 
alien is ineligible to apply for asylum in the United States. Subject 
to paragraph (e)(7)(i)(B) of this section, after the asylum officer's 
documented finding is reviewed by a supervisory asylum officer, the 
alien shall be advised that he or she will be removed to the receiving 
country, as appropriate under the applicable agreement, in order to 
pursue his or her claims relating to a fear of persecution or torture 
under the law of the receiving country. Prior to removal to a receiving 
country under an agreement authorized by section 208(a)(2)(A), the 
alien shall be informed that, in the receiving country, the alien will 
have an opportunity to pursue the alien's claim for asylum or 
equivalent temporary protection.
    (B) Aliens found ineligible to apply for asylum under this 
paragraph (e)(7) shall be removed to the receiving country, depending 
on the applicable agreement, unless the alien voluntarily withdraws his 
or her request for asylum.
    (ii) If the alien establishes by a preponderance of the evidence 
that he or she qualifies for an exception under the terms of the 
applicable agreement, or would more likely than not be persecuted on 
account of a protected ground delineated in section 208(a)(2)(A) of the 
Act or tortured in the receiving country, the asylum officer shall make 
a written notation to that effect, and may then proceed to determine 
whether any other agreement is applicable to the alien under the 
procedures set forth in this paragraph (e)(7). If the alien establishes 
by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she qualifies for an 
exception under the terms of each of the applicable agreements, or 
would more likely than not be persecuted on account of a protected 
ground or tortured in each of the prospective receiving countries, the 
asylum officer shall make a written notation to that effect, and then 
proceed immediately to a determination concerning whether the alien has 
a credible fear of persecution or torture under paragraph (d) of this 
section.
    (iii) An exception to an applicable agreement is defined under the 
terms of the agreement itself. Each agreement, including any 
exceptions, will be announced in a Federal Register document. If the 
asylum officer determines that an alien is within one of the classes 
covered by a section 208(a)(2)(A) agreement, the officer shall next 
determine whether the alien meets any of the applicable agreement's 
exceptions. Regardless of whether the text of the applicable agreement 
provides for the following exceptions, all such agreements, by 
operation of section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act, and as applicable to the 
United States, are deemed to contain the following provisions:
    (A) No alien may be removed, pursuant to an agreement authorized by 
section 208(a)(2)(A), to the alien's country of nationality, or, if the 
alien has no nationality, to the alien's country of last habitual 
residence; and
    (B) No alien may be removed, pursuant to an agreement authorized by 
section 208(a)(2)(A), where the Director of USCIS, or the Director's 
designee, determines, in the exercise of unreviewable discretion, that 
it is in the public interest for the alien to receive asylum in the 
United States, and that the alien therefore may apply for asylum, 
withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against 
Torture, in the United States.
    (iv) If the asylum officer determines the alien meets an exception 
under the applicable agreement, or would more likely than not be 
persecuted on account of a protected ground or tortured in the 
prospective receiving country, the officer may consider whether the 
alien is subject to another agreement and its exceptions or would more 
likely than not be persecuted on account of a protected ground or 
tortured in another receiving country. If another section 208(a)(2)(A) 
agreement may not be applied to the alien, the officer should 
immediately proceed to a credible fear interview.
    (8) An asylum officer's determination shall not become final until 
reviewed by a supervisory asylum officer.
* * * * *

Department of Justice

    Accordingly, for the reasons set forth in the preamble, the 
Attorney General amends 8 CFR parts 1003, 1208, and 1240 as follows:

PART 1003--EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR IMMIGRATION REVIEW

0
4. The authority citation for part 1003 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 301; 6 U.S.C 521; 8 U.S.C. 1101, 1103, 
1154, 1155, 1158, 1182, 1226, 1229, 1229a, 1229b, 1229c, 1231, 
1254a, 1255, 1324d, 1330, 1361, 1362; 28 U.S.C. 509, 510, 1746; sec. 
2 Reorg. Plan No. 2 of 1950; 3 CFR, 1949-1953 Comp., p. 1002; 
section 203 of Pub. L. 105-100, 111 Stat. 2196-200; sections 1506 
and 1510 of Pub. L. 106-386, 114 Stat. 1527-29, 1531-32; section 
1505 of Pub. L. 106-554, 114 Stat. 2763A-326 to -328.


0
5. Section 1003.42 is amended by revising paragraph (h) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  1003.42   Review of credible fear determination.

* * * * *
    (h) Asylum cooperative agreement--(1) Arriving alien. An asylum 
judge has no jurisdiction to review a determination by an immigration 
officer that an arriving alien is not eligible to apply for asylum 
pursuant to the 2002 U.S.-Canada Agreement formed under section 
208(a)(2)(A) of the Act and should be returned to Canada to pursue his 
or her claims for asylum or other protection under the laws of Canada. 
See 8 CFR 208.30(e)(6). However, in any case where an asylum officer 
has found that an arriving alien qualifies for an exception to that 
Agreement, an immigration judge does have jurisdiction to review a 
negative credible fear finding made thereafter by the asylum officer as 
provided in this section.
    (2) Aliens in transit. An immigration judge has no jurisdiction to 
review any determination by DHS that an alien being removed from Canada 
in transit through the United States should be returned to Canada to 
pursue asylum claims under Canadian law, under the terms of the 2002 
U.S.-Canada Agreement.

[[Page 64010]]

    (3) Applicants for admission. An immigration judge has no 
jurisdiction to review a determination by an asylum officer that an 
alien is not eligible to apply for asylum pursuant to a bilateral or 
multilateral agreement with a third country under section 208(a)(2)(A) 
of the Act and should be removed to the third country to pursue his or 
her claims for asylum or other protection under the laws of that 
country. See 8 CFR 208.30(e)(7). However, if the asylum officer has 
determined that the alien may not or should not be removed to a third 
country under section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act and subsequently makes a 
negative credible fear determination, an immigration judge has 
jurisdiction to review the negative credible fear finding as provided 
in this section.
    (4) Aliens in transit through the United States from countries 
other than Canada. An immigration judge has no jurisdiction to review 
any determination by DHS that an alien being removed from a receiving 
country in transit through the United States should be returned to 
pursue asylum claims under the receiving country's law, under the terms 
of the applicable cooperative agreement. See 8 CFR 208.30(e)(7).

PART 1208--EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR IMMIGRATION REVIEW

0
6. The authority citation for part 1208 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  8 U.S.C. 1101, 1103, 1158, 1226, 1252, 1282; Title 
of Public Law 110-229, 8 CFR part 2.

0
7. Section 1208.4 is amended by revising paragraph (a)(6) to read as 
follows:


Sec.  1208.4   Filing the application.

* * * * *
    (a) * * *
    (6) Asylum cooperative agreements. Immigration judges have 
authority to consider issues under section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act, 
relating to the determination of whether an alien is ineligible to 
apply for asylum and should be removed to a third country pursuant to a 
bilateral or multilateral agreement, only with respect to aliens whom 
DHS has chosen to place in removal proceedings under section 240 of the 
Act, as provided in 8 CFR 1240.11(g) and (h). For DHS regulations 
relating to determinations by immigration officers on this subject, see 
8 CFR 208.30(e)(6) and (7).
* * * * *

PART 1240--EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR IMMIGRATION REVIEW

0
8. The authority citation for part 1240 continues to read as follows:

    Authority:  8 U.S.C. 1103, 1158, 1182, 1186a, 1186b, 1225, 1226, 
1227, 1228, 1229a, 1229b, 1229c, 1252 note, 1361, 1362; secs. 202 
and 203, Pub. L. 105-100 (111 Stat. 2160, 2193); sec. 902, Pub. L. 
105-277 (112 Stat. 2681).


0
9. Section 1240.11 is amended by revising the paragraph (g) subject 
heading and paragraphs (g)(1) and (4) and adding paragraph (h) to read 
as follows:


Sec.  1240.11   Ancillary matters, applications.

* * * * *
    (g) U.S.-Canada safe third country agreement. (1) The immigration 
judge has authority to apply section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act, relating 
to a determination that an alien may be removed to Canada pursuant to 
the 2002 Agreement Between the Government of the United States of 
America and the Government of Canada For Cooperation in the Examination 
of Refugee Status Claims from Nationals of Third Countries 
(``Agreement''), in the case of an alien who is subject to the terms of 
the Agreement and is placed in proceedings pursuant to section 240 of 
the Act. In an appropriate case, the immigration judge shall determine 
whether under that Agreement the alien should be returned to Canada, or 
whether the alien should be permitted to pursue asylum or other 
protection claims in the United States.
* * * * *
    (4) An alien who is found to be ineligible to apply for asylum 
under section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act is ineligible to apply for 
withholding of removal pursuant to section 241(b)(3) of the Act and the 
Convention against Torture. However, the alien may apply for any other 
relief from removal for which the alien may be eligible. If an alien 
who is subject to the Agreement and section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act is 
ordered removed, the alien shall be ordered removed to Canada, in which 
the alien will be able to pursue his or her claims for asylum or 
protection against persecution or torture under the laws of Canada.
    (h) Other asylum cooperative agreements. (1) The immigration judge 
has authority to apply section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act, relating to a 
determination that an alien may be removed to a third country pursuant 
to a bilateral or multilateral agreement--other than the 2002 U.S.-
Canada Agreement--in the case of an alien who is subject to the terms 
of the relevant agreement and is placed in proceedings pursuant to 
section 240 of the Act. In an appropriate case, the immigration judge 
shall determine whether under the relevant agreement the alien should 
be removed to the third country, or whether the alien should be 
permitted to pursue asylum or other protection claims in the United 
States. If more than one agreement applies to the alien and the alien 
is ordered removed, the immigration judge shall enter alternate orders 
of removal to each relevant country.
    (2) An alien described in paragraph (h)(1) of this section is 
ineligible to apply for asylum pursuant to section 208(a)(2)(A) of the 
Act, or for withholding of removal or CAT protection in the United 
States, unless the immigration judge determines, by a preponderance of 
the evidence, that:
    (i) The relevant agreement does not apply to the alien or does not 
preclude the alien from applying for asylum in the United States;
    (ii) The alien qualifies for an exception to the relevant agreement 
as set forth in paragraph (h)(3) of this section and the Federal 
Register document specifying the exceptions particular to the relevant 
agreement; or
    (iii) The alien has demonstrated that it is more likely than not 
that he or she would be persecuted on account of a protected ground or 
tortured in the third country.
    (3) The immigration judge shall apply the applicable regulations in 
deciding whether an alien described in paragraph (h)(1) of this section 
qualifies for an exception under the relevant agreement that would 
permit the United States to exercise authority over the alien's asylum 
claim. The exceptions for agreements with countries other than Canada 
are further explained by the applicable published Federal Register 
document setting out each Agreement and its exceptions. The immigration 
judge shall not review, consider, or decide any issues pertaining to 
any discretionary determination on whether an alien described in 
paragraph (h)(1) of this section should be allowed to pursue an 
application for asylum in the United States notwithstanding the general 
terms of an agreement, as section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act reserves to 
the Secretary or his delegates the determination whether it is in the 
public interest for the alien to receive asylum in the United States. 
However, an alien in removal proceedings who is otherwise ineligible to 
apply for asylum under an agreement may apply for asylum if DHS files a 
written notice in the proceedings before the immigration judge that DHS 
has decided in the

[[Page 64011]]

public interest that the alien may pursue an application for asylum or 
withholding of removal in the United States.
    (4) If the immigration judge determines that an alien described in 
paragraph (h)(1) of this section is subject to the terms of agreements 
formed pursuant to section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act, and that the alien 
has failed to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the 
alien would be persecuted on account of a protected ground or tortured 
in those third countries, then the alien is ineligible to apply for 
withholding of removal pursuant to section 241(b)(3) of the Act and the 
Convention Against Torture notwithstanding any other provision in this 
chapter. However, the alien may apply for any other relief from removal 
for which the alien may be eligible. If an alien who is subject to 
section 208(a)(2)(A) of the Act is ordered removed, the alien shall be 
ordered removed to the relevant third country in which the alien will 
be able to pursue his or her claims for asylum or protection against 
persecution or torture under the laws of that country.

    Approved:

    Dated: November 14, 2019.
Chad F. Wolf,
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security.
    Approved:

    Dated: November 14, 2019.
William P. Barr,
Attorney General.
[FR Doc. 2019-25137 Filed 11-18-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 9111-97-P; 4410-30-P