Immigration Law

Trump administration attempts to further restrict asylum-seekers through new rule

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In its latest effort to alter the asylum system, the Trump administration has proposed a new rule that would make it even more difficult for immigrants to seek protection in the United States.

The 161-page rule, which was released by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice on Wednesday and set to publish in the Federal Register on June 15, makes a series of changes that the departments say will allow them “to more effectively separate baseless claims from meritorious ones.”

The New York Times, NPR, CNN and Courthouse News Service have coverage.

Among the changes, asylum-seekers will receive higher scrutiny if they traveled through other countries on their way to the United States but did not apply for asylum in those countries. The Trump administration had already applied a similar rule to migrants traveling from Latin America through Mexico, but this recent addition widens the scope of the policy.

According to the new rule, “the departments believe that the failure to seek asylum or refugee protection in at least one country through which an alien transited while en route to the United States may reflect an increased likelihood that the alien is misusing the asylum system as a mechanism to enter and remain in the United States rather than legitimately seeking urgent protection.”

Despite exceptions that currently exist, the new rule also says that living in the United States illegally for more than a year before applying for asylum, failing to pay taxes or having a criminal conviction—even if it was reversed, vacated or expunged—are factors that could adversely affect asylum claims.

Additionally, the new rule seeks to clarify when asylum applications are “frivolous” and amend the definitions of several terms, including “particular social group,” “political opinion” and “persecution.”

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst for the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, told CNN that while the rule will streamline the asylum process, it will also “further limit the number of individuals that qualify for asylum, as well as similar benefits.”

“A lot of these provisions have been in the works with the administration for years,” she said. “Rather than issue them as separate regulations, the administration has lumped together a lot of different provisions in this behemoth, Frankenstein asylum regulation.”

In a joint statement Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., called the Trump administration’s latest effort to change the country’s asylum laws “abhorrent, un-American and illegal.”

“As we have seen time and time again over the last four years, this president is attempting to rewrite our immigration laws in direct contravention of duly enacted statutes and clear congressional intent,” they said. “In this historic moment, preserving the rule of law and nation’s long tradition of asylum-seeking is crucial. We can and must continue to be a beacon of hope and freedom across the world.”

CNN points out in its report that the proposed rule does not mention COVID-19, even though the pandemic has postponed immigration hearings, stopped refugee admissions and barred migrants from entering the country in recent months.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Unaccompanied children are being deported without the hearings they are entitled to, ABA president says”

ABA Journal: “SCOTUS allows remain-in-Mexico policy to continue during legal challenge”

ABA Journal: “New asylum rule won’t apply to immigrants stopped by metering policy, appeals court says”

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