Immigration Law

Trump orders asylum-seekers to pay application fees, requires hearings within 180 days

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Donald Trump

President Donald Trump. Photo by Shealah Craighead via the White House and Wikimedia Commons.

On Monday, President Donald Trump imposed new restrictions on asylum-seekers and people who cross the border illegally. In a memo, Trump requires fees for asylum applicants and adjudication of their cases within 180 days, absent exceptional circumstances.

The memo also bans provisional work permits for people who cross the border illegally and are awaiting hearings. The Washington Post, the New York Times, NBC News and Politico have coverage.

The asylum fees should be for no more than the cost of adjudication, the memo says. Work permits would not be allowed until relief or protection from removal is granted. The changes would be set out in proposed regulations that would be drafted within 90 days.

The U.S. attorney general has already the authority to require asylum applicants to pay fees, but there is currently no charge, the Washington Post explains. Federal law also requires asylum cases to be decided in 180 days, but immigration courts were not able to meet that goal as cases piled up.

Now immigrants must wait nearly two years for a hearing. About 400 judges are handling immigration cases amid a backlog of about 850,000 cases.

The directive is one of many immigration measures by Trump that’s leading to court battles. He had declared a national emergency earlier this year to obtain funds for his border wall, required asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico as they await hearings, denied asylum to victims of gang violence and domestic abuse, and banned travel to the United States for people in seven countries.

Trump’s latest directive comes amid a surge in immigrants crossing the southern border. The number of people who crossed the border last month—more than 103,000—was at its highest peak in more than a decade.

Keren Zwick, associate director of litigation for the National Immigrant Justice Center, told the Washington Post that she fears that the new regulations will lead to unfair hearings for immigrants who won’t have the time or money to prepare.

“There’s a fine line between quick adjudication and being railroaded through the system,” she said.

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