A new directive from the Trump administration seeks to change the rules for asylum seekers, with the purported goal of “strengthening asylum procedures”. The proposed changes seem likely to make it more difficult for people to claim asylum and to make life more difficult for the people who do claim asylum. The directive calls for asylum cases to be adjudicated within 180 days, denying work permits to anyone crossing the border illegally, and requiring asylum seekers to pay an application fee for both their asylum case and a work permit.
Under current rules, asylum seekers can apply for work permits regardless of how they enter the country. After filing for asylum, applicants can seek a work permit after 150 days. It’s very rare that any work permits are issued within 180 days of an applicant applying for asylum. In practice, the new rules will effectively cease the issuance of work permits to asylum seekers. And that’s assuming that the asylum seeker has the means to afford their asylum or work permit application.
Current law already states that asylum cases should be adjudicated within 180 days, but a lack of judicial resources has led to an increasing backlog of immigration and asylum cases. There are about 850,000 immigration cases pending, with only 400 or so immigration judges to clear them. Charging fees for an asylum application is likely designed to discourage people from seeking asylum. Most asylum seekers flee their home countries with few or no resources. Under most circumstances, they are unable to receive any federal assistance, and they may not be able to afford legal help that could make the difference in their asylum case.
The asylum directive calls for these new regulations to be implemented in 90 days, but it is likely that the directive will face legal challenges and will not be implemented that quickly.
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