Declaring the US asylum system to be “in crisis,” President Donald Trump directed immigration officials on Monday night to introduce a slew of tough new rules for migrants seeking humanitarian protection in the United States.
The measures, outlined in a presidential memorandum, include the introduction of a fee for asylum applications and banning asylum seekers who’ve entered the US illegally from receiving work permits. The memo also calls for the adjudication of asylum applications within 180 days.
The new rules, Trump said, are aimed at safeguarding “our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process.”
It currently costs nothing for someone to file for asylum in the United States and immigration experts have warned that even a small fee could prove to be an impossible burden for some migrants seeking refuge. As The Washington Post noted, a vast majority of countries do not impose a fee on asylum claims.
“The majority of people coming to the United States seeking asylum are coming with little more than the shirts on their back,” Victoria Neilson, a former official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told Reuters.
Trump, who’s repeatedly lambasted migrants for exploiting what he says are legal loopholes in the asylum system, also ordered asylum seekers who’ve entered the country illegally to be banned from obtaining work authorisation “before any applicable application for relief or protection from removal has been granted.” Currently, asylum seekers who’ve entered the U.S. both legally and illegally are allowed to work while their claims are pending.
“There’s a reason that we give people work permits while they are waiting for asylum, so that they can support themselves and don’t have to be depending on government assistance during that time,” Michelle Brané of the Women’s Refugee Commission told The New York Times.
The memo also demands that all asylum applications, save for those involving “exceptional circumstances,” are adjudicated in immigration court within 180 days of filing.
As the Post noted, US law already dictates that asylum cases are adjudicated within that time ― but due to an overwhelming number of cases and inadequate resources, asylum seekers can often wait years before their claims are processed.
“The provision to process cases in 180 days has been on the books for over two decades,” Ashley Tabaddor, president of the immigration judges’ union, told the paper. “The problem is that we have never been given adequate resources to adjudicate those claims in a timely fashion.”
Trump has directed Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to introduce the new asylum regulations within 90 days. Immigration advocates, however, are expected to challenge the measures in court.
The administration is already involved in several court battles over earlier changes to U.S. asylum rules, including the so-called “remain in Mexico” policy requiring some asylum seekers to return to Mexico to await court hearings.