Thursday, May 2, 2019

Asylum seekers leave everything behind. There’s no way they can pay Trump’s fee.

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Earlier this week, President Trump announced new efforts to tighten the process for applying for asylum in teh Unbited States.  Lindsay M. Harris and Joan Hodges-Wu in the Washington Post question the administration's new directions in asylum.  They begin:

"On Monday evening, President Trump issued a memo intended to make life more difficult for those seeking asylum in the United States. The memo calls for regulations that, among other things, require asylum seekers to pay a fee to apply for asylum and their first work permit, and denies work permits to immigrants who entered the United States without inspection, or `illegally.'

Since the creation of our asylum system, after the United States signed the Protocol to the Refugee Convention in 1968 and enacted its own Refugee Act in 1980, there has never been a fee to apply for asylum. Filing for asylum is free for a reason under U.S. law and in the vast majority of other countries: Seeking asylum is a human right.

There are already plenty of obstacles and limits to that right in our existing immigration system. For instance, asylum seekers have to wait to receive permission to legally work in the United States. Congress codified a waiting period for work permits for asylum seekers in 1996. Asylum seekers can apply for a work permit 150 days after they have submitted an application for asylum. The work permit is issued sometime after 180 days."

Among other things, Harris and Hodges-Wu worry about the proposed asylum fee to be imposed on asylum seekers:

"This new fee would also put asylum seekers further at risk of being exploited, or even physically harmed, abused or trafficked within the United States. Asylum seekers are already vulnerable to such predatory behavior. For example, years ago, one of us worked with a young woman from Niger who fled a forced marriage and female genital mutilation. As an asylum seeker in the United States, she had no way to provide for herself and found herself passed from one abusive situation to another. By the time she filed her asylum application, she had been repeatedly raped, held captive and forced to work in various homes. She was providing free child-care in exchange for lodging but forbidden from leaving the house."


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