AILA Quicktake #264: White House Releases a Presidential Memorandum on Asylum

On April 29, 2019, the White House released a presidential memorandum in response to the large numbers of people apprehended at the southern border this year. AILA Policy Counsel Leidy Perez-Davis discusses the three major changes to asylum law that the memo proposes.

Video Transcript

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On April 29th, the President issued a memo in response to the large number of people
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apprehended at the southern border this year.
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The memo directs the attorney general and
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the secretary of homeland security to propose regulations within 90 days.
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The memo proposes three major changes that will significantly alter long-established
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practices in asylum law and processing.
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First, the regulations will establish a fee for asylum applications.
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Second, they will restrict the type of relief asylum seekers may apply for.
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And lastly, these regulations will bar people who entered between ports of entry without
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being inspected from receiving a work permit.
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Overall these proposed changes will curtail
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the due process rights of asylum seekers, while still failing to ensure orderly processing
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of those arriving at the southern border.
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For the first time in US history, a fee will be imposed on asylum applicants.
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Requiring a fee for asylum applicants contradicts international laws
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and creates a financial barrier for humanitarian protection.
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People fleeing violence and persecution are among the most vulnerable populations
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of people, and often leave their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs.
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Forcing them to pay a fee could be an insurmountable obstacle.
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Secondly, the regulations would force asylum seekers
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into special limited types of removal proceedings,
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that would restrict what the judge could and consider,
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including limiting the types of relief and the ability of the asylum seeker
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to be released from detention on bond.
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Specifically, this means that individuals who have been victims of serious crimes
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or trafficking, or children that would be eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
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due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect,
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would be excluded from these protections that Congress provided.
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In addition, these individuals would be subject to indefinite detention
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while their asylum claim is pending.
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Lastly, the regulations would block many asylum seekers from obtaining
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employment authorization until relief has been granted.
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This would mean that numerous asylum seekers currently stuck
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in the immigration court backlog would be unable to work and
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provide for themselves and their families while their case is pending adjudication.
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Many people wait more than a year for their cases to be decided.
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Until the courts can process cases more efficiently this change means that
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asylum seekers will not be able to financially support themselves.
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While AILA supports having an efficient asylum system that ensures
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orderly and timely processing of cases,
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this memo and the regulations it calls for would create chaos
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in the immigration courts and disrupt an already dysfunctional processing system.
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It does this at great cost:
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namely diluting due process in a way that deprives asylum seekers
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the meaningful chance to apply for protection.
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To address the situation at the southern border,
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the government should fix the immigration court backlog
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by reforming the immigration courts,
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ensure access to counsel for asylum seekers
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and address the root causes of migration by increasing
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rather than cutting foreign aid to the Northern Triangle countries.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 19043034.