Asylum Under Threat: Impact of President Trump’s Immigration Executive Orders and the Department of Homeland Security’s Memoranda on Asylum Seekers

On January 25, 2017, President Trump issued two executive orders addressing U.S. immigration policies, entitled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” and “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”

Human Rights First expressed its strong opposition and concern about many of the provisions included in these orders which undermine U.S. treaty commitments and global leadership relating to human rights and refugee protection.

On February 20, 2017 Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, issued two memoranda—one concerning border security and the other on enforcement of immigration laws—to implement the executive orders. The memoranda include many provisions impacting a range of immigrants and asylum seekers, including: the expansion of the controversial 287(g) program that turns police officers into immigration agents; a direction to begin designing and building the “wall” between the United States and Mexico, and; a dramatic expansion of the use of expedited removal, rather than immigration court removal, proceedings in the interior of the United States.

As detailed below, a number of provisions outlined in the February 20 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memoranda, like the underlying executive orders, would multiply the many challenges already faced by refugees attempting to navigate the U.S. asylum process.

In particular, the executive order and the DHS memoranda appear to subject asylum seekers to even tougher initial screenings, lengthy periods in immigration detention, expanded summary processing, and some kind of rocket docket asylum adjudications. Another provision, if applied to asylum seekers, would attempt an end run around U.S. law and treaty obligations relating to refugees and asylum by turning them back to Mexico at the U.S. southern border.

The United States has the capacity to both secure its borders and address the humanitarian refugee and displacement crisis in ways that comply with U.S. treaty commitments and uphold U.S. global leadership.

Fact Sheets

Published on February 22, 2017


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