Earlier this month, the Trump Administration announced devastating proposed changes to the United States asylum system. These proposed regulations, if implemented, would be the final blow to a system that has already been decimated over the last two years. They would effectively end asylum as we know it in the U.S.
According to the American Immigration Council, the new proposed asylum regulations would render ineligible for asylum “people who have passed through at least two countries or stayed in another country for at least 14 days prior to arriving to the United States; people who have ever failed to pay taxes, paid taxes late, or failed to report any income to the IRS; and been unlawfully present in the U.S. for at least one year.”
These new rules would apply to anyone seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive in the U.S. and could potentially also apply to the hundreds of thousands of migrants with pending asylum applications. They also change the definition of “persecution” in the context of asylum, overturning decades of case law. Furthermore, the proposed regulations seek to severely limit the definitions of “particular social group” and “political opinion” such that people who are fleeing due to opposition to gangs or terrorist organizations would no longer be eligible, nor would people who voice political opposition to those groups. These proposed rules would also fully eliminate gender-based asylum claims.
In addition to the horrifying changes to eligibility for asylum brought by these proposed rules, they would also alter the procedure for applying for asylum to make it unrecognizable. Asylum seekers arriving at the border who passed the first stage of the asylum process would not be put into full immigration court proceedings as they are now.
Under these new rules, immigration judges would be allowed to deny asylum applications without a hearing. This is a horrifying violation of due process rights, as asylum applicants currently must be given the opportunity to testify about their case. With the new rules, a judge could decide that an asylum application does not include sufficient evidence and, on those grounds, deny someone their day in court. This would be particularly devastating for asylum seekers who represent themselves.
If past Trump Administration policies, from Matter of A-B- to Remain in Mexico, have rendered the asylum system nearly unrecognizable, these changes will be its death knell. We would no longer be a country that opens its arms to those who seek refuge and safety on its shores. Instead, we would turn away families seeking protection, LGBTQ folks seeking the ability to live freely, and women fleeing gender-based violence, sending them back to the very horrors that they escaped.
While we are appalled and disheartened by these inhumane proposals, we will do everything in our power to fight back against them to protect what is left of the asylum system.
You can help!
If you would like to join us in the fight to save asylum, act by submitting a comment to the federal register. The proposed rule is titled “Procedures for Asylum and Withholding of Removal; Credible Fear and Reasonable Fear Review” and the OMB Control Number is 1615-0067.
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