New Trump admin proposal would make it harder for immigrants to claim asylum in U.S.

"The proposed rule is literally the kitchen sink of asylum bans and will end any notion of asylum that still remains," said an immigration lawyer.
Image: A U.S. Border Patrol agent gathers personal effects from immigrants before they were transferred to a McAllen processing center on in Los Ebanos, Texas.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent gathers personal effects from immigrants before they were transferred to a McAllen processing center on in Los Ebanos, Texas, on July 2, 2019.John Moore / Getty Images file

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By Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Wednesday unveiled a proposal that would make it harder for immigrants to claim asylum in the U.S., even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

If enacted after a public comment period, the rule would allow immigration judges to throw out asylum cases before holding a hearing.

During the coronavirus pandemic, nearly all asylum hearings have been postponed. Existing policy, however, says that immigrants are given an asylum hearing if they can prove to an asylum officer that they have a reasonable fear of persecution or torture if they are returned to their home country. The new rule would allow immigration judges to throw out an asylum seeker's case if they think there are flaws in the application.

Greg Chen, director of government relations for the advocacy group American Immigration Lawyers Association, said court hearings before immigration judges are often where more details that help bolster an asylum case emerge.

"The proposed rule is literally the kitchen sink of asylum bans and will end any notion of asylum that still remains, recognizing that this administration has already issued so many previous bans," said Chen. "It would close off asylum for nearly all survivors of domestic violence as well as people targeted by gangs. It will short circuit due process in countless ways to make it faster and easier to deport asylum seekers effectively denying them a fair day in court."

If an immigrant does meet the standard for a hearing, the process will be "streamlined" under the new rules, rather than the full proceedings, which allow for a longer process. The proposed rules can be found by clicking here.

Immigration judges, unlike other judges who are part of the judicial branch of the government, are employees of the Justice Department and follow guidance set forth by the Attorney General.

In a press release, the Justice Department said the new rules would allow the department "to more effectively separate baseless claims from meritorious ones."