AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

AILA: Presidential Memo Seeks to Deny Asylum Seekers Fundamental Human Rights

4/30/19 AILA Doc. No. 19043033. Admissions & Border, Asylum
George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

WASHINGTON, DC - On April 29, 2019, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum titled "Additional Measures to Enhance Border Security and Restore Integrity to Our Immigration System." While the memo itself does not change asylum policy, it directs the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to issue several regulations that would dramatically alter how asylum seekers obtain protection, and dilute their rights during that process.

The memo directs DHS and the Department of Justice to issue regulations that would:

  • Require people seeking asylum to pay a fee to apply for asking for protection;
  • Place people who have shown a credible or reasonable fear of being persecuted or tortured into special limited removal proceedings. These limited proceedings would restrict the judges' ability to consider any forms of relief aside from asylum or withholding of removal, and attempts to prohibit judges from releasing anyone from detention on bond.
  • Prohibit anyone who has entered or attempted to enter the U.S. unlawfully from qualifying for work authorization, essentially stripping asylum seekers of their ability to provide for themselves, even in cases where government error has caused significant delay.

AILA President Anastasia Tonello stated, "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."

AILA Executive Director Benjamin Johnson added, "AILA wholeheartedly supports the ideal of an efficient and effective asylum process, but such a process must also allow for a meaningful chance to make the claim for protection, with access to counsel, and a fair day in court. This memo sets forth the expectation that asylum cases must be adjudicated in 180 days but does nothing to resolve the immigration court backlog. It would cause immigration court dockets to be reshuffled once again, forcing people who have been waiting in line for years to wait even longer. 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. This means asylum seekers will not be able to financially support themselves while their case is pending, an unnecessary and harmful change."