By Antonia Brillembourg ’21
On June 15, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a 161-page proposition for new asylum regulation. The regulation proposes continued immigration and asylum restrictions following COVID-19. In the meantime, the Trump administration has closed the border to the U.S. in response to COVID-19. The new proposal would make it virtually impossible to attain asylum in the U.S. even after the border reopens.
Asylum has been a legalized path towards citizenship since 1967 when the U.S. signed the United Nations’s (UN) refugee protocol for those who are unable to return to their home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future "on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."
The DHS’s proposed action would eliminate gender-based asylum. Under this legislation, the U.S. will no longer offer refuge for women fleeing rape, domestic violence, and will offer no protection for LGBTQ+ people fleeing persecution in their home countries. The regulation will also severely restrict the ability to claim asylum based on political persecution if not inflicted by one’s own government. These measures would reject those fleeing terrorist organizations and gang-related violence, formerly grounds for asylum under political persecution. Other modifications include changing the way the UN convention against torture is interpreted and raising the standards for passing the Credible Fear Interview. Additionally, the new regulation would disqualify applicants who passed through other countries, including flight layovers, on the way to the U.S. This barrier until recently was part of the current asylum restrictions. On July 1, Timothy J. Kelly, a federal judge appointed under President Donald Trump, came out to say that the previous amendment was illegal due to the government's failure to let the public comment.
Limiting the number of immigrants allowed in the country, whether by asylum, refugee status, or work visa, has been integral to President Donald Trump's platform and vision for the country. In the last two years, President Trump has reduced the minimum number of refugees that must be admitted in the U.S. by half, accepting only 18,000 refugees per year. Furthermore, President Trump proclaimed in April 2019, "The asylum program is a scam," and that asylum seekers are "some of the roughest people you have ever seen. People that look like they should be fighting for the UFC … whether it's asylum, whether it's anything you want—it's illegal immigration—can't take you anymore. Our country is full. I'm sorry—can't happen, so turn around."
The public has until July 15 to express concerns about the law by writing a comment to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Trump administration is legally obligated to respond to each concern raised in the comments.