TRUMP PROPOSES NEW RESTRICTIONS ON ASYLUM-SEEKERS

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

“Asylum, you know I look at some of these asylum people, they’re gang members.  They’re not afraid of anything . . . and they say ‘I fear for my life,’ they’re the ones causing fear for life.  It’s a scam, it’s a hoax”. These prior comments by President Trump from early April clearly show that he opposes immigration to the United States based on asylum.  Thus, it was no surprise when, on April 29, he issued “Presidential Memorandum on Additional Measures to Enhance Border Security and Restore Integrity to Our Immigration System” (the “Memorandum”), proposing new restrictions on asylum-seekers.

According to the Memorandum, its “purpose . . . is to strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process. . . . It is the policy of the executive branch to manage our humanitarian immigration programs in a safe, orderly manner that provides access to relief or protection from removal from the United States for aliens who qualify, and that promptly denies benefits to and facilitates the removal of those who do not”.

Within 90 days of its issuance, the Memorandum calls upon the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue proposed regulations in 4 areas.  First, asylum-seekers “who receive positive fear determinations pursuant to section 235(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act . . . or section 2242 of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998” shall be “placed in proceedings conducted under 8 CFR 208.2(c)(1) and 1208.2(c)(1)” (the equivalent of “asylum-only” proceedings) “or, if not eligible for asylum” shall be “placed in proceedings conducted under 8 CFR 208.2(c)(2) and 1208.2(c)(2)” (the equivalent of “withholding of removal” proceedings).  Second, “absent exceptional circumstances, all asylum applications adjudicated in immigration court proceedings” shall “receive final administrative adjudication, not including administrative appeal, within 180 days of filing”. Third, fees shall be set both “for an asylum application not to exceed the costs of adjudicating the application” and “for an initial application for employment authorization for the period an asylum claim is pending”. Fourth, asylum-seekers “who have entered or attempted to enter the United States unlawfully” shall be barred “from receiving employment authorization before any applicable application for relief or protection from removal has been granted”, and asylum-seekers “who are denied asylum or become subject to a final order of removal” shall be subject to “immediate revocation of employment authorization”.  In addition, “[t]he Secretary of Homeland Security shall reprioritize the assignment of immigration officers and any other employees of the Department as the Secretary deems necessary and appropriate to improve the integrity of adjudications of credible and reasonable fear claims, to strengthen the enforcement of the immigration laws, and to ensure compliance with the law by those aliens who have final orders of removal”.

The Memorandum received immediate criticism from immigration advocates.  Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, stated, “We’ve seen it over and over again, from turning away asylum-seekers at ports of entry, to trying to make those who enter between ports of entry ineligible for asylum, and most recently until now, sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico to wait for their court hearings. . . . The Trump administration has had their hand slapped numerous times by the courts, and I suspect that this time will be no different”.  The proposal to charge asylum-seekers (who often come to the United States penniless) a fee especially attracted negative comments. Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva stated, “Seeking asylum is a right under U.S. and international law – not a privilege to pay for”. The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted, “[T]he idea that we will charge asylum seekers a fee to seek refuge from prosecution, torture, or death is offensive and counter to our values”.

The inconsistency in the policies of the Trump administration is that El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are 3 of the leading producers of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States, but the United States recently cut off aid to these 3 countries, worsening the quality of life there and thereby increasing the number of potential asylum applications from there.  For an administration that seems focused on reducing immigration without any constraint, such inconsistency is unfortunately ignored. In this hostile environment towards immigration, foreigners seeking immigration assistance with respect to the Memorandum and other anti-immigration policies need the expertise of the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates. To benefit from the law firm’s years of immigration law successes, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000.