Rule to Block Asylum Seekers From Protection Finalized in Last Days of Trump Administration

Final rule creates virtually insurmountable barriers for asylum seekers to apply for and be granted humanitarian protection

WASHINGTON  —  A final rule that will result in refugees being denied asylum and deported to persecution was finalized by the Trump administration in the last days of his presidency. Provisions in the rule finalized today create draconian procedural barriers for asylum seekers and are likely to have a disproportionate impact on refugees who are unrepresented, detained, or do not speak English.

“By finalizing this rule on the way out, the Trump administration is doubling down on its legacy of cruelty toward refugees and asylum seekers,” said Anwen Hughes, deputy legal director at Human Rights First. “This rule is not only designed to deny humanitarian protection for people who are eligible by drastically restricting the time they have to submit an asylum application and imposing technical and harsh requirements for their cases to even be heard, but it also makes it harder for the Biden administration to provide a fair legal process for refugees who request protection in the United States.”

These new rules will:

  • Give many asylum seekers only 15 days from their first hearing to complete and file their entire asylum application to the immigration court, a nearly impossible deadline for many attorneys and particularly difficult for asylum seekers who are detained, unrepresented, or do not speak English. Asylum seekers unable to complete the application within this draconian time frame will be denied humanitarian protection and deported to danger unless they are granted extensions. This rule will apply to asylum seekers who request protection at the border and are targeted by many of the other illegal rules promulgated by the Trump administration.
  • Automatically deny any asylum applications based on minor and trivial technicalities (including for inadvertent errors such as forgetting to fill in “N/A” in every single box on the form that does not apply) if the asylum seeker does not resubmit the rejected “incomplete” application within 30 days.
  • Diminish the credibility afforded to sources for evidence not created by the U.S. government – such as reports issued by independent human rights organizations – in the consideration of asylum cases and treat as de facto credible U.S. government reports despite evidence they are subject to political pressure and have recently reduced coverage of critical issues such as LGBTQ rights and the rights of women and children.
  • Encourage immigration judges to submit their own evidence in asylum cases and allow them to deny cases on this basis, transforming them from neutral adjudicators and fact finders to DHS attorneys advocating for the denial of relief.
  • Impose impossibly high requirements for asylum seekers to meet if they need to request a continuance beyond a strict 180-day adjudication deadline (including to obtain additional time to secure legal counsel, to gather critical evidence, to cope with a medical problem or another emergency, or to await adjudication of an application before USCIS, for instance).

This finalized rule is virtually identical to the rule proposed by the administration in September 2020, which Human Rights First and hundreds of other organizations and individuals opposed through public comments.


Published on December 15, 2020


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