On Monday night, President Trump called for a massive overhaul to the asylum system that he has said is full of fraudulent behavior. Included in the new plan is a fee to process asylum applicants as well as the ability to quickly decide their case while they’re barred from working in the U.S. until the case has been closed.
In a presidential memorandum, President Trump pointed to Attorney General William Barr, and the acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, and explained that this move was necessary in order to handle the “crisis” at the border. According to an article published by The New York Times earlier this month, the humanitarian crisis of illegal immigration has hit a “breaking point.”
Arrests at the southern border have reached a 12-year high, with border agents making more than 100,000 arrest or denials in the month of March alone. Immigration courts, who process asylum claims, have a backlog of more than 800,000 cases. Even so, many of those that are applying for asylum are staying in the United States even if their applications have been denied.
In President Trump’s memo, he wrote: “That emergency continues to grow increasingly severe. The extensive resources required to process and care for these individuals pulls U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel away from securing our Nation’s borders.”
In a fact sheet that was released by the White House on Monday, they said that on average “out of every 100 aliens subject to expedited removal who claim a fear of persecution, only about 12 will ultimately be granted asylum.” They continued by saying that “around half of all aliens who make a credible fear claim and are subsequently placed in removal proceedings do not actually apply for asylum.”
Despite the fact that a large majority of applications are denied, they can still take months or even years to process. Asylum law is only intended to provide shelter to refugees fleeing their country because of personal persecution based on a limited number of factors, such as religious or political beliefs. The asylum laws don’t protect those that are fleeing poor living conditions or poverty. Just last year, the Trump administration withdrew an Obama administration expansion of the potential justifications for asylum, which included protecting those that claimed domestic abuse of gang-related attacks. At the time, White House officials said that categories were prone to be abused.
In Trump’s memorandum, he gave his deputies just 90 days to propose regulations so that all applications for asylum are decided within 180 days, except for those that represent exceptional circumstances. DHS officials and the White House didn’t immediately respond to questions about how much it might cost applicants to pay for the asylum fees. It’s also unclear as to whether or not families fleeing poverty are able to afford such a payment. According to the memo, the cost of asylum fees wouldn’t exceed the cost of processing the application, but officials didn’t immediately provide an estimate on what the cost might be.
President Trump also wants to ban anyone who has entered the country or tried to enter the country illegally from receiving a provisional work permit. The Trump administration is also calling for officials to immediately revoke work authorizations when people are denied asylum and are ordered to leave the country. Officials in immigration say that one of the main reasons why asylum claims are extensive is because migrants know that they will be able to work and live in the United States while their cases are being decided.
According to a statement from the White House, the number of “aliens who do not show up to court and are ordered removed in absentia has soared, with 17,200 removal orders issued in absentia in the first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2019. … If this pace continues, in absentia removal orders would more than triple the 2013 total.”
For those asylum cases that originate from a credible claim of fear, “in absentia removal orders are on pace to increase to 17,636 in FY 2019, around 20 times more than the total in FY 2010.” President Trump is also seeking to reassign immigration officers and other staff members “to improve the integrity of adjudications of credible and reasonable fear claims, to strengthen the enforcement of the immigration laws, and to ensure compliance with the law by those aliens who have final orders of removal.”