The White House is scheduled to post a rule July 16 into the Federal Register, which would ban asylum for most people arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The rule — issued jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department — states that those who have passed through another country before reaching the U.S. must apply for asylum in that country, and are ineligible for applying for asylum in the U.S.
In 2018, an estimated 9,000 people from India arrived by foot on the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking asylum. In 2017, an estimated 7,000 asylum seekers arrived in the same manner, according to rough estimates from the Sikh American Legal Defense Fund. In their asylum claims, many Indian minorities, including Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians, have stated they have faced violence and persecution in India, from both private actors and public officials.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018 greatly narrowed the definition of who was eligible for asylum; victims of domestic violence or those harassed by gang members or other private actors are no longer eligible.
Previously, asylum seekers were released to a U.S. family member — after passing a credible fear interview — until their claim for asylum was adjudicated. Under current policy, however, it is almost impossible to be released on bond. Thus, asylum seekers must wait for several months — sometimes years — in over-crowded Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers or makeshift facilities until their cases are heard.
The Immigration and Nationality Act currently requires that those who have passed through a “safe” country before entering the U.S., must apply for asylum in that country. Currently, however, the U.S. only has “safe country” agreements with Canada; thus, the new rule would technically be in violation of the INA.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that the policy “clearly violates the Immigration and Nationality Act.”
“The Administration has clearly overreached their authority and violated the law with these restrictions, which will be swiftly and successfully challenged in the courts. The Democratic House will always stand firm against attacks on immigrants, and will continue to call on the White House to join us to support smart, effective immigration policies that honor our values and keep families together and safe,” said Pelosi.
Exceptions will be made for those victims of violence and persecution who did apply in another country, but were rejected, and those who can credibly demonstrate that they are a “victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons.”
The rule will be applied to people coming into the country; it will not be applied retroactively to those who are already here.
The new rule is already listed in the Federal Register and can be viewed in its entirety here: https://bit.ly/2JI3OTl
According to a statement from DHS, the rule will be effective as soon as it is published in the Federal Register. Attorney General William Barr noted: “This rule is a lawful exercise of authority provided by Congress to restrict eligibility for asylum.”
“The United States is a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of aliens along the southern border,” he said, adding that the rule would vastly curtail the number of people “who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States.”
DHS and DOJ noted that the number of asylum claims has exponentially increased, more than tripling between the years 2013 and 2018.
“This will definitely impact Indians coming through the Southern border,” Gujari Singh, spokeswoman for the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, told India-West. “The assumption will be that they came through a second country. They will immediately be rejected,” she said.
“They must claim asylum in the first country they landed in,” she clarified.
Indian American Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, tweeted that the administration’s new policy is “deliberately cruel.”
“We should embrace our moral responsibility to serve as a safe haven for children and families fleeing violence and persecution,” she said in a July 15 tweet.
In the new rule, the administration states that the number of asylum claims have risen from 5 percent to 40 percent in the years 2013-2018. “Only a small minority of these individuals, however, are ultimately granted asylum,” notes the rule.
“The large number of merit-less asylum claims places an extraordinary strain on the nation’s immigration system, undermines many of the humanitarian purposes of asylum, has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis of human smuggling, and affects the United States’ ongoing diplomatic negotiations with foreign countries,” noted the administration in the rule.
The White House had not issued a formal statement as of press time late July 15 evening.
The Associated Press reports: Immigration courts are backlogged by more than 800,000 cases, meaning many people won’t have their asylum claims heard for years despite more judges being hired.
During the budget year for 2009, there were 35,811 asylum claims, and 8,384 were granted. During the 2018 budget year, there were 162,060 claims filed, and 13,168 were granted.