Jun 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump administration proposes toughest asylum rules yet

 A man from Venezuela seeking asylum in the United States holds his daughter on February 28, 2020, in Ciudad Juárez.

Venezuelan man seeking asylum in the United States with his daughter at the entrance to the Paso del Norte International Bridge in Ciudad Juárez, at Mexico's border with the U.S. in February. Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration announced plans on Wednesday for sweeping changes to the U.S. asylum system.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Stef Kight, the proposed new rules would make it much harder for migrants to gain humanitarian protection once the borders that have been closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic reopen — assuming the proposal makes it through the regulatory process.

  • This marks the toughest approach yet to U.S. immigration policy. It expands on a rule introduced by the Trump administration last July that forces migrants fleeing their home countries to apply for asylum in one of the first countries they pass through, or face ineligibility for asylum once they reach the southern border of the U.S.

Details: If implemented after a public comment period, the Rule on Procedures for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, proposed by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, would streamline the asylum application process but prevent most applicants from being entitled to a full court proceeding on their claims.

  • The proposal would enable lower-level asylum officers to rule if an application was "frivolous," therefore, denying the applicant protections in the U.S., a power that currently only resides with the DOJ's Board of Immigration Appeals and immigration judges.
  • Applicant claims of being under threat from terrorists, gangs or "rogue" government officials would be rejected.

Of note: Last month, the Trump administration expelled more than 20,000 people who crossed the border illegally using emergency powers provided by a CDC order, citing the public health threat presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Those individuals include children and asylum-seekers who are usually protected by U.S. law, Axios' Fadel Allassan notes.
  • Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., against the U.S. government over the policy on Tuesday night, on behalf of a 16-year-old boy from Honduras who's awaiting deportation from the United States.

What they're saying: The rule would streamline procedures, allowing for quicker decisions and "eliminate removal delays … that serve no purpose and eliminate the waste of adjudicatory resources currently expended in vain," Justice and Homeland Security officials said, per the Wall Street Journal.

  • Greg Chen, director of government relations for the advocacy group American Immigration Lawyers Association, told NBC News: "The proposed rule is literally the kitchen sink of asylum bans and will end any notion of asylum that still remains, recognizing that this administration has already issued so many previous bans.
"It will short circuit due process in countless ways to make it faster and easier to deport asylum seekers effectively denying them a fair day in court."
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