Asylum Process Disrupted

This page was created as a link to my main story. It highlights all of the ways in which the Trump administration has sought to disrupt, dismantle and end the Asylum seeking process on the US southern border.

  • In February, the Administration issued new and more restrictive guides for the first screening interview, narrowing the qualifications for “credible fear”. Border agents, for example, became allowed to use signs of stress as a reason to doubt someone’s credibility.
  • Asylum seekers have long faced a significant backlog of cases, but the Administration exacerbated the problem with something DHS Secretary Nielsen called “metering,” This intentional slowdown limits the number of immigrants that can enter an official port of entry per day. Some people wait for weeks; there is no way for migrants to hold their spot or make an appointment, and no one is guaranteed to be able to cross. The Administration has specifically used this tactic in the hopes that a weeks-long waiting process would demoralize migrants enough to turn them around. Many migrants have faced horrific conditions during their wait.
  • In March, the Administration dramatically undercut asylum claims based on domestic and gang violence. Previously, immigrants could potentially obtain asylum if such threats met the “credible fear” test, but the Trump Administration rejected these forms of violence as a reason to seek asylum, and sought to limit claims to migrants being persecuted by government actors.
  • Reporting in June highlighted that CBP was repeatedly violating asylum law, turning hundreds of asylum seekers away after they had made it to the border. One person was incorrectly told, “Donald Trump just signed new laws saying there is no asylum for anyone,” according to a lawsuit.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice also sought to make major changes to the asylum process via the immigration court system. These changes included:
    • Eliminating a requirement that asylum seekers receive a full hearing before an immigration judge.  
    • Changing the system to hold asylum seekers in detention even after they pass the credible fear screening. Migrants are not released until their final hearing — a process that takes months if not years, and a change that makes it exceedingly difficult for migrants to collect the evidence necessary to be granted asylum.
  • Due to the Trump’s Administration’s policy of detaining asylum-seekers by default, torture survivors seeking asylum were unable to obtain a forensic evaluation needed to prove harm suffered before arriving in the U.S.
  • On November 9, Trump tried to ban asylum seekers altogether, blocking those who cross between ports of entry from entering the process, but the courts ruled against him. The ban would have wholly rewritten asylum law, which currently allows any immigrant to make an asylum claim up to two years after entering the country no matter how they arrived in the U.S.
  • As asylum seekers waited in month-long lines at official ports of entry, the Administration temporarily closed the largest port of entry at Tijuana. When a group prompted by the closure and confusion tried to enter anyway, the border patrol responded with tear gas — into a crowd that included mothers and children.   
  • In December, the Administration began to suggest they might begin to charge a $50 fee for asylum applications. As Ur Jaddou of DHS Watch said, “People will say, ‘$50? What’s $50?’ but that’s not the point. [Seeking asylum] is not something people are doing voluntarily. It flies in the face of what asylum and refugee requests are.”

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