New guidance directs USCIS asylum adjudication officers to weigh a migrant’s illegal entry into the U.S. against legitimate claims of asylum and instructs officers to turn away asylum seekers citing gangs or domestic violence as a reason for entry at the border.
The move comes after Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ letter listing subpoenaed reporters did not name NYT journalist DOJ unveils proposal giving feds more power to limit opioid production Senate confirms Trump DOJ nominee with ties to Russian bank MORE used his authority to overturn a decision last month from an immigration court, ruling that claims of gang violence or domestic abuse no longer qualify potential asylum seekers for entry.
“Claims based on … the members’ vulnerability to harm of domestic violence or gang violence committed by non-government actors will not establish the basis for asylum, refugee status, or a credible or reasonable fear of persecution,” according to the new guidance, which was first reported by CNN.
Authorities are also reportedly encouraged to use “an applicant’s illegal entry, including any intentional evasion of US authorities, and including any conviction for illegal entry where the alien does not demonstrate good cause for the illegal entry, to weigh against a favorable exercise of discretion” during asylum applications.
The new decision reportedly places the burden of describing in correct legal terminology the reasoning behind an asylum claim on asylum seekers, and means that many more migrant families will be denied entry at the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico without ever seeing a judge.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accused previous administrations of overreach in granting asylum, stating that victims of domestic violence or gangs were not meant to be protected in an emailed statement.
“Our laws do not offer protection against instances of violence based on personal, private conflict that is not on account of a protected ground, but over the years grounds for qualifying for asylum have greatly expanded far beyond what Congress originally intended,” USCIS spokesman Michael Bars said.
“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. They’re then referred to an immigration judge and released on a promise to appear for a court date weeks, months, or years down the line regardless of whether they plan to show up. This exacerbates delays and undermines those with legitimate claims,” he added.
Immigration advocates, however, painted the plan as an attempt by Sessions to undercut legitimate claims of asylum by migrants.
“When you put it all together, this is his grand scheme to just close any possibility for people seeking protection — legally – to claim that protection that they can under the law,” Ur Jaddou, a representative for immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, told CNN. “He’s looking at every possible way to end it. And he’s done it one after the other.”
This article was updated at 12:30 p.m.