Less than 24 hours after President Trump ordered suspending granting of asylum to migrants crossing the U.S. border, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is seeking to block these new restrictions. The order would ban migrants from applying for asylum outside of U.S. official ports of entry. It would also suspend the granting of asylum to migrants who cross the U.S. border with Mexico illegally for up to 90 days. The proclamation will stand for 90 days or until the U.S. reaches an agreement with Mexico concerning asylum seekers.
The ACLU says the “new asylum ban is illegal” and “neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override the clear commands of U.S. law.”
BREAKING: We just filed a lawsuit to challenge the president’s new asylum ban.
Neither the president nor his cabinet can override the clear commands of our law, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. We’ll see him in court.
— ACLU (@ACLU) November 9, 2018
The ACLU, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed the lawsuit on behalf of several immigrant advocacy groups in federal court Nov. 9. The advocacy groups are seeking a court order that would temporarily prevent the government from restricting asylum applications as restrictions have gone into effect. The ACLU released a statement challenging President Trump’s new asylum ban.
“President Trump’s new asylum ban is illegal. Neither the president nor his cabinet secretaries can override the clear commands of U.S. law, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. This action undermines the rule of law and is a great moral failure because it tries to take away protections from individuals facing persecution — it’s the opposite of what America should stand for,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a press release.
The Immigration and Nationality Act says that people may apply for asylum “whether or not” they enter the U.S. at a port of entry. The Trump administration wants to change that “or not” part.
Under 1951 UN Refugee Convention, to which the US is a signatory, "refugees" may apply for asylum even if they enter a country illegally. Asylum seekers currently wait in border towns for weeks because US inspectors don't have the capacity to process their claims. #migrantcaravan pic.twitter.com/XOji6k6YyI
— Sojourner Traveler (@SojournTravel) November 10, 2018
There has been a massive backlog in recent months at border crossings in California, Arizona and Texas. In some cases some people are waiting five weeks to try to claim asylum at San Diego’s main crossing. When someone enters the U.S. without papers they are subject to deportation without a court hearing, unless they say they want to claim asylum or fear persecution in their home country. In those cases, they’re entitled to an interview with an asylum officer. It’s there where the person makes their claim for asylum and the officer determines if there is “credible fear”.
Yet this new rule in place would change the way an individual would claim asylum. A person who enters the U.S. from Mexico without papers between ports of entry would still get an interview with an asylum officer. But the asylum officer is required to check not for a “credible fear of persecution” but instead a “reasonable fear,” which is a higher standard. It requires not just a significant chance of persecution but a determination that persecution is more likely than not. The “reasonable fear” screening has historically been used for immigrants who’ve already been ordered deported and returned to the US, and immigrants who have crime records.
The ratio of both interviews shows huge contrasts with one another. About 75 percent of all asylum seekers pass when it comes to credible fear interviews and a little more than 25 percent pass reasonable fear interviews.
This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has tried to change immigration polices.
Last Friday, the Trump administration imposed a new ban to target the caravan migrants seeking refuge in the US. This blatant attack on asylum seekers will not stop them from coming. This should not discourage us, but it should empower us to fight off these despicable policies. pic.twitter.com/7HC3kZNkL0
— UnLocal, Inc (@unlocal) November 13, 2018
The Trump administration has tried to change immigration policies before and most have been put on hold or taken down by federal judges. The first travel ban back in January 2017, the family separation policy in June 2018 and the administrations continued efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, have all been met with legal roadblocks.
President Trump’s plan to change border laws might have bigger implications when it comes to all that seek asylum.
President Trump has ordered that asylum seekers must present themselves at points of entry to be considered for asylum. Where are the barriers and ports of entry on the southern border of the United States? https://t.co/qXTXAxozwl pic.twitter.com/D9AyX4rcgU
— CFR (@CFR_org) November 13, 2018
Although the rule change was aimed at the caravan of families from Central America moving slowly toward the U.S. border, it will have huge implications for asylum seekers of all kinds. The U.S. rules for asylum seekers were designed in cooperation with the United Nations and are protected by federal law. If President Trump is allowed to change the rules for one group of asylum-seekers, he may try to do that for all of them.