The Trump administration has issued a new guidance directing USCIS asylum adjudication officers to weigh a migrant’s illegal entry into the U.S. against legitimate claims of asylum and instructing officers to turn away asylum seekers fleeing gangs or domestic violence.
The move comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to victims of gang violence or domestic abuse.
“Claims based on … the members’ vulnerability to harm of domestic violence or gang violence committed by non-government actors will not establish the basis for asylum, refugee status, or a credible or reasonable fear of persecution,” according to the new guidance.
Authorities are also reportedly encouraged to use “an applicant’s illegal entry, including any intentional evasion of US authorities, and including any conviction for illegal entry where the alien does not demonstrate good cause for the illegal entry, to weigh against a favorable exercise of discretion” during asylum applications.
The Hill added:
The new decision reportedly places the burden of describing in correct legal terminology the reasoning behind an asylum claim on asylum seekers, and means that many more migrant families will be denied entry at the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico without ever seeing a judge.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accused previous administrations of overreach in granting asylum, stating that victims of domestic violence or gangs were not meant to be protected in an emailed statement.
“Our laws do not offer protection against instances of violence based on personal, private conflict that is not on account of a protected ground, but over the years grounds for qualifying for asylum have greatly expanded far beyond what Congress originally intended,” USCIS spokesman Michael Bars said.
“Many petitioners understand this, know how to exploit our system, and are able to enter the U.S., avoid removal, and remain in the country. They’re then referred to an immigration judge and released on a promise to appear for a court date weeks, months, or years down the line regardless of whether they plan to show up. This exacerbates delays and undermines those with legitimate claims,” he added.
Immigration advocates said this is a “grand scheme” by Sessions to undercut legitimate claims of asylum by migrants.
“When you put it all together, this is his grand scheme to just close any possibility for people seeking protection — legally — to claim that protection that they can under the law,” Ur Jaddou, a representative for immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, told CNN. “He’s looking at every possible way to end it. And he’s done it one after the other.”