Merely one day after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services stated that the U.S. would toughen its requisites for asylum to immigrants, the same department has announced that immigration officials will now be more discrete and decline potentially valid applications.
The new measure argues that the illegal entry to the country itself works against their case, leaving their application irrelevant. They also confirmed and approved Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ statement in June, where he mentioned that asylum would not be given to victims of domestic abuse and gang attacks from now on.
This will definitely affect many illegal immigrants coming to America, since those are two of the most common reasons why people come to the country in the first place. It is particularly common in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which have seen a drastic increase in citizens trying to enter the U.S. through the southern Mexican border. Sessions’ decision was considered by the USCIS as “binding”.
Addressing the recent new legislation, the department’s directive stated: “An officer should consider whether the applicant demonstrated ulterior motives for the illegal entry that are inconsistent with a valid asylum claim that the applicant wished to present to U.S. authorities.” This description basically leaves the decision of providing asylum entirely to the immigration officials and border officers, which is a somewhat arbitrary source of judgement.
It also directly contradicts an already existing law, which states that immigrants should not be penalized or punished for an illegal entry to the U.S. The law recognized that the search for asylum can sometimes cause for people to break immigration laws. The latest development from the USCIS comes right during the controversy surrounding the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy”, which caused for many families to be separated at the U.S. border. Many of them were seeking for asylum.
Their overall handling of the immigration crisis has been criticized, since President Trump only seemed to change legislation after the public’s pressure grew. In fact, before the controversy became massive, Trump and his team were quite adamant with their defense of the measure, saying that the measure had been implanted by the Democratic party and that they were the only ones who could change it. By signing an executive order merely days after, the public was left with suspicions over the president’s true intentions.
Both new asylum policies have caused for discomfort among senators and other politicians. Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein stated:
This memorandum clearly demonstrates that the administration has no respect for laws passed by Congress. It also reiterates the president’s hostility toward immigrants and those seeking to save their lives by applying for asylum, including victims of domestic violence.”
USCIS spokesman Michael Bars responded to the immediate backlash, saying that the new measures were targeted towards protecting the U.S. immigration system and the proper enforcement of the law. He stated:
Our laws do not offer protection against instances of violence based on personal, private conflict. But over the years, grounds for qualifying for asylum have greatly expanded far beyond what Congress originally intended. 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. USCIS is committed to adjudicating all petitions fairly, efficiently, and effectively on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet all standards required under the law”
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