Presidential Memo Deprives Asylum Seekers of Fundamental Rights

On Tuesday, April 29, the White House issued a memo directing the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to issue new rules for asylum seekers that would dilute their rights. Titled "Additional Measures to Enhance Border Security and Restore Integrity to Our Immigration System," the memo called for adjustments that would:

  • Demand a fee from asylum seekers to apply for protection
  • Limit a judge's ability to offer relief to people with reasonable fear of persecution outside of asylum or "withholding of removal"
  • Disqualify asylum seekers from getting work authorization

Keeping asylum seekers from finding work would make it virtually impossible for people fleeing persecution to provide for themselves. Thanks to other USCIS rules issued by this administration, making asylum seekers dependent on public benefits might threaten their ability to receive permanent residency or citizenship later. Putting vulnerable people in this kind of position is harmful to the legal and social fabric of our nation.

The AILA Responds

Anastasia Tonella, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said, "The plain language of this memo is an affront to our international obligations to provide humanitarian relief to those fleeing persecution. It directs government agencies to issue regulations that will undermine our asylum laws without improving border security. We need orderly management of the border. However, this memo harms asylum seekers without addressing the problems that are the root cause of the border management crisis."

Benjamin Johnson, AILA Executive Director, added, "It also strips asylum seekers, who often have fled unspeakable conditions with barely the clothes on their backs, of their ability to work, even if their hearing is severely delayed through no fault of their own."

The Challenges of New Asylum Regulations

Immigration advocates believe that the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict asylum protections will harm those who are desperately seeking refuge from violence in their native countries. The Trump administration has ordered officials to process asylum claims in as little as six months. However, the Justice Department finds that order nearly impossible because they are backlogged with more than 800,000 cases. It currently takes years for asylum cases to conclude because they are complex and often involve significant trauma.

In the past, asylum seekers were given the opportunity to live and work in the United States for the months or years it took to process their claims. Now, asylum seekers are stripped of those opportunities, making it nearly impossible for many to escape the trauma and violence they experienced.

Our duty is simple: we must provide safe refuge to the vulnerable people who need our protection and our aid. We must provide them with a fair day in court, access to a lawyer, and as few obstacles as administratively possible. When we try to discourage asylum seekers by making the claim process more difficult, it subjects innocent people to inhumane conditions.

Our New Jersey immigration attorneys work with asylum seekers to help them get on their feet in America. Call 800-909-8129 today for a free consultation about your legal options. Se Habla Español.