Friday, June 19, 2020

Trump administration proposes new obstacles for asylum seekers

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 9:04 AM

click to enlarge This photo shows the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego. - TONY WEBSTER VIA FLICKR
  • Tony Webster via Flickr
  • This photo shows the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego.

People who come to the U.S. seeking to prove they're being persecuted based on race, religion or social group in their country of nationality could soon face new challenges to obtaining protection, under a new rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Some people apply for asylum at a border checkpoint, while others apply from within the U.S. In order to qualify for asylum, an individual has to prove a "credible fear of persecution or torture" in the country from which they fled.

The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on June 15, would (among other measures) allow for a more "streamlined" process in which immigration judges could deny someone protection from deportation without first holding a hearing, in some circumstances.

Asylum would be more difficult to obtain for people who had failed to file taxes, missed an asylum interview or been convicted of a crime. If someone had stopped in another country on the way to the U.S., that could also count against them.

The proposed changes would also redefine the standard for "credible fear of persecution of torture" such that those fleeing domestic or gang-related violence, or gender-based discrimination, would not be able to obtain safe harbor in the U.S. on those grounds alone.

"The proposed rule violates U.S. and international human rights law, effectively ending asylum," Anna Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said in a statement. "It targets and casts aside some of the most vulnerable people in the world, who need and deserve safety and to be treated with human dignity. The administration's actions represent some of the most egregious human rights violations in our nation's immigration history."

Immigration judges decided a record number of asylum cases in 2019, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data research organization at Syracuse University.

More than 67,400 asylum cases were decided by immigration judges last year, and the number of immigrants receiving asylum more than doubled from 2014 to 2019, from 9,684 to 19,831. However, TRAC notes, the number of immigrants who were denied asylum or other relief grew even faster — from 9,716 immigrants to 46,735 over the same time period. In 2019, 69 percent of asylum cases heard by judges were denied.

The Department of Homeland Security is accepting public comment on the proposed rule during a 30-day period that ends July 15. Normally, the public has 60 days to comment on proposed rules once they've been published in the Federal Register.

Instructions for submitting comments are available on the Federal Register's website.

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