Friday, December 11, 2020
The hits just keep coming. The Trump administration has released new asylum regulations. As summarized by Tal Axelrod on The Hill:
"The Trump administration is working to place new restrictions on which immigrants are eligible for asylum, its latest effort to curb both legal and illegal immigration.
In a new 419-page rule from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) the administration said it will move to curtail the circumstances under which a person can apply for asylum protections, a decision it acknowledges will likely lead to a drop in asylum grants.
Specifically, the new regulations would broaden judges’ power to say asylum applications are “frivolous,” a ruling that would bar an immigrant’s request from being approved, and deny requests without a hearing if the claims are deemed to be backed by insufficient evidence.
The new policy also says that asylum seekers must prove that they will suffer `a severe level of harm' should they return to their home country. Current law says asylum seekers must have a `credible fear of persecution or torture.'
The definition of persecution is also limited in the new rule and will not cover some treatment that the U.S. deems `unfair, offensive, unjust, or even unlawful or unconstitutional,' `harassment' or `threats with no actions taken to carry out the threats.' Fears of gang violence will also be insufficient.
Beyond curtailing the circumstances that would lead to an asylum claim being granted, the rules also empower judges to weigh a series of actions by the seeker in determining whether to grant protections, including if they illegally crossed the U.S. border.
`The Departments note that these changes are likely to result in fewer asylum grants annually due to clarifications regarding the significance of discretionary considerations and changes to the definition of ‘firm resettlement.’ However, because asylum applications are inherently fact-specific, and because there may be multiple bases for denying an asylum application, neither DOJ nor DHS can quantify precisely the expected decrease,' the administration wrote in the rules.
The new rule will be published Friday in the Federal Register and then takes effect in 30 days.
The move is the latest in the Trump White House's four-year effort to curtail immigration into the U.S. . . ." (bold added)
Condemnation of the asylum regulations has been swift and harsh. Human Rights First put it succinctly: "In the waning days of the current administration, the Trump U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Justice have rammed through a sweeping final rule, set to go into effect on January 11, 2021, that guts what remains of protection for refugees seeking asylum in the United States. This rule is a clear violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the intent of Congress, and the treaty obligations of the United States."
The American Immigration Lawyers Association made the following announcement in response to the new regulations:
"The Trump administration has finalized a regulation that will devastate the United States asylum system by making it nearly impossible for most applicants to successfully claim humanitarian protection in the United States. The rule is set to go into effect on January 11, just nine days before President-Elect Biden takes office. The regulation guts the U.S. asylum system, making protection from persecution impossible for almost everyone. It raises additional obstacles to passing a preliminary screening at the border, eliminates multiple long-established grounds for granting asylum, and allows immigration judges to deny people their day in court by rejecting applications without a hearing. The regulation denies protection to nearly all who pass through more than one country on their way to the United States.
Beth Werlin, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council, said, “For generations, the United States has been a beacon of hope for those in need of protection. This new rule breaks that tradition. By choosing to move forward with this regulation, the administration is making clear that deterrence through cruelty is the point until the bitter end. In order to remain a society that protects the most vulnerable, the Biden-Harris administration must take steps to unwind this draconian rule immediately after assuming office.”
According to Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), “Fleeing life-threatening danger for lasting safety is a herculean effort—attaining that safety should not be, and the U.S. government certainly should not be erecting impassable legal walls blocking asylum entirely. This new rule raises the bar for asylum screenings and eventual long-term relief so impossibly high that it effectively shutters the U.S. asylum system. We know the Biden-Harris administration is committed to protecting asylum seekers and urge the President-elect and his team to act swiftly to reverse the immense damage this final-hour rule is certain to wreak on those in need of safety in the United States.”
Jennifer Minear, President of AILA, added, “This rule eviscerates a needed lifeline to those fleeing danger and reiterates a common false narrative promoted by the Trump administration: that border security can only be attained through the gutting of the asylum system. Border security and a humane approach to asylum-processing are not incompatible goals – they must be accomplished in tandem. We are counting on the Biden-Harris administration to revitalize and protect the United States’ commitment to the protection of those fleeing danger and seeking refuge in our country.”