President Trump is calling for new regulations that will target asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
These new rules would accelerate court hearings, limit options for relief, create new fees for an asylum application, and eliminate work permits for most asylum seekers. Taken together, the rules could prevent many from winning asylum and leave others penniless and desperate as they pursue their cases.
None of these punitive measures would address root causes that are forcing people to flee their homes for protection in the United States. The changes would unlikely stem the flow of people arriving at the border. Instead, they would make the process worse for everyone.
1. Charging a Fee to Apply for Asylum
Applying for protection has been free since the modern asylum system was created almost 40 years ago. There is no cost since many asylum seekers flee their home countries with only the clothes on their back. Under Trump’s new plan, asylum seekers would have to pay a fee to cover the costs of adjudicating an asylum application. But charging people asking for protection flies in the face of America’s promises to protect the vulnerable. No one should be charged for safety from persecution.
Requiring an asylum application fee would be particularly devastating for the tens of thousands of asylum-seekers held in immigration detention while they pursue their cases. Asylum seekers in detention are paid virtually nothing for “voluntary work,” and new fees could force them to labor for months just to apply for asylum. This financial obstacle would cause more people to abandon their asylum claims.
2. Banning Work Authorization
Six months after applying for asylum, people have the right to seek work authorization. This permits them to work legally while they wait for a final decision on their application.
Under the new rules, asylum seekers who enter the United States between ports of entry—most recent asylum seekers—would be banned from getting work authorization. This provision could force many asylum seekers into desperate situations. Given that asylum cases can take years, many could go hungry or face homelessness if they were unable to legally work while pursuing their claims.
3. “Asylum-Only” Immigration Court
The president also proposed two new regulations affecting the immigration court process itself. One would place asylum seekers who pass “credible fear” interviews into “asylum-only” immigration court proceedings, which would limit their options for protection. Asylum-only proceedings are exactly what they sound like—you either win asylum or are deported. Unlike regular immigration court proceedings, other options for staying in the country would not be available.
4. Accelerated Court Hearings
A fourth regulation calls for all asylum cases to be heard within a six-month maximum, except in “exceptional circumstances.” Currently, due to a large immigration court backlog, non-detained asylum seekers may wait years for their cases to be heard.
Requiring all asylum cases to be heard within six months would place a huge strain on the system. For those without asylum applications, waiting times could increase by years. It would also make it harder for asylum seekers to get a lawyer, knowing that cases would move on such an accelerated time frame.
Taken together, these changes risk turning the asylum process into a sham. Rushed court proceedings, high fees, and limits on work authorization would do nothing to fight supposed “fraud.” Instead, these changes would hurt the most vulnerable. America shouldn’t put humanitarian protection behind a pay wall.