On Monday, President Donald Trump ordered changes to the current asylum process, effectively making it harder to apply.
Ted Hesson, employment and immigration reporter for Politico, says Trump, in a memo, asked heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to establish new regulations to “toughen” the asylum process.
The president’s memo indicated three major changes. First, he wants to add fees to asylum applications; historically, it’s been free to apply. Second, he wants to restrict who can apply for the right to work in the U.S. while they’re waiting for their asylum claim to be processed. He wants those who crossed into the U.S. illegally to be barred from applying for a work permit. Third, he wants to limit “what other sorts of relief” asylum-seekers can pursue while their case is processed.
“All this taken together will just make the process tougher for people that are trying to seek refuge in the U.S.,” Hesson says.
He says of the 147 countries that are places of asylum, only a few charge fees for the application, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
“So there are some familiar names … but, in general, it’s pretty rare,” Hesson says.
Some asylum-seekers could struggle to pay the fee if they fled their country with few belongings or financial resources.
“Some people have said the very nature of being a genuine asylum-seeker means that you probably left your home country in a hurry,” Hesson says. “Even if you had some assets back in your home country, you didn’t have time to liquidate them.”
He also says some asylum-seekers end up spending what money they have on the journey; sometimes that money goes to smugglers.
“It’s widely reported that paying smugglers costs upwards of $7,000-$8,000,” Hesson says.
As a result, he says migrant advocates argue this fee adds an unnecessary extra hurdle for those seeking asylum.
Hesson has reported that the Trump administration has experimented with various strategies to discourage Central American migrants from coming to the U.S., and that those strategies have been mostly unsuccessful. He considers these new proposals experiments, too.
“They seem to be throwing so much to the wall, as far as different policies,” Hesson says.
Trump signed an executive order in November that sought to ban anyone who crossed the U.S. border illegally from seeking asylum. But Hesson says a federal judge blocked that policy shortly after.
“They’re going through a succession of different policies to try and send a message that the U.S. is not a welcoming place to seek asylum,” Hesson says.
Ironically, he says the number of asylum-seekers and others coming to the southern U.S. border continues to grow.
No new policies will immediately go into effect as a result of Trump’s memo. Hesson says it was merely an order to members of his administration to start working on establishing new regulations. He also says Trump’s memo didn’t indicate a timeline for the project.
“If they’re following the normal regulatory process, a regulation can take years to put into effect,” Hesson says. “If they try and do it in an expedited way … it’s still going to take them weeks or maybe even months.”
He also says once the new regulations are written, they could face legal challenges soon after.
Written by Caroline Covington.