By Ted Hesson and Mimi Dwyer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration finalized a regulation on Thursday that greatly restricts access to asylum in the United States, part of a last-minute immigration crackdown that incoming President-elect Joe Biden will likely try to reverse.
The final rule cuts off asylum access for most migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border through a series of changes to eligibility criteria, according to experts and advocates. In addition, it directs immigration judges and asylum officers to deny broad types of asylum claims, such as those based on domestic abuse and gang violence, with some exceptions.
The new policy will almost certainly face legal challenges, which have sidelined other immigration initiatives put in place by Republican President Donald Trump.
The latest restrictions are set to take effect on Jan. 11, just nine days before Biden, a Democrat, takes office. The Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding its stance on the measure, but the incoming president has pledged to restore asylum protections and undo many Trump-era measures.
The asylum restrictions are part of a broader push in the last weeks of the Trump administration to implement tougher immigration rules, a central focus of his four years in office. The blitz to finalize rules previously announced could slow efforts by Biden to unravel them.
The new rule instructs asylum officers and judges to weigh negatively applications from migrants who crossed into the United States illegally, used fraudulent documents, or passed through other countries without seeking refuge elsewhere first.
The rule will "eviscerate" migrant protections if it remains in place, said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the pro-immigrant American Immigration Council, and "put asylum out of reach for all but the lucky few."
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington and Mimi Dwyer in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Berkrot)