In the name of getting tough on fraud, the Trump administration is making it harder for immigrants fleeing violence, persecution and trafficking to stay in the U.S., writes Axios' Stef Kight.
- Since President Trump took office, denial rates for asylum seekers and T visas, which are for victims of human trafficking, have skyrocketed while the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. has plummeted.
The big picture: Claims of domestic abuse or gang violence no longer qualify for asylum claims after a decision by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year — one of the biggest factors in the increased denial rates, former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director Leon Rodriguez told Axios.
- Requests for more evidence of sex or labor trafficking have increased for T visa applications, said Evangeline Chan, an immigration attorney who works with Safe Horizon, a nonprofit that cares for victims of crime and abuse.
- There have also been more wrongful denials of asylum and T visas, which Chan attributes to overburdened courts and pressure from the administration for judges to meet quotas. "There are a lot of decisions being rushed," she said.
The other side: Advocates for cutting immigration, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, argue that the higher denial rates are due, at least in part, to a rise in asylum-seekers who do not qualify.
- "The reality is that our asylum system is being abused by those seeking economic opportunity, not those fleeing persecution, exacerbating crisis after crisis at our Southern border and keeping those who truly need asylum at the back of the line," USCIS spokesperson Jessica Collins told Axios.
The bottom line: "You can always reverse engineer intellectual justifications for what you're doing," Rodriguez said. "But I think it's really that political motivation that's behind all of this."