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USCIS finalizes new rule restricting some asylum options

On Behalf of | Dec 29, 2020 | Immigration Law

In a final push to enshrine the Trump administration’s immigration policy goals into law, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently finalized a regulation that will limit access to asylum in the U.S.

The new regulation will go into effect on January 11. This is just over a week before President-elect Joe Biden will take office. It is considered likely that the Biden administration will reverse the new rule. However, that will take some time to complete, even if Biden prioritizes the change.

The new regulation attempts to change the eligibility criteria for asylum in the U.S. It directs immigration officers and judges to:

  • Put negative weight on applications from immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally (It is not illegal to enter the United States to seek asylum.)
  • Attempt to deny asylum to immigrants who used fraudulent documents to enter the U.S.
  • Attempt to deny asylum to people who traveled through other countries on their way to the U.S. without seeking asylum there

Critics point out that previous administrations have allowed migrants to seek asylum in the U.S. even after passing through other countries, when those countries offered no safe place to apply for asylum themselves. The new rule would make it much more difficult to seek asylum unless you fly into the U.S. on a U.S. visa.

Additionally, the regulation attempts to deny virtually all asylum claims based on domestic violence or gang violence, with few exceptions. The Trump administration has been working to deny asylum in such cases for several years. Previous administrations had allowed people to seek asylum when their home governments offered insufficient protection from domestic or gang violence.

A spokesperson for the American Immigration Council said that the new regulation will “eviscerate” protections for asylum seekers if allowed to go into effect. It will “put asylum out of reach for all but the lucky few.”

Aspects of this regulation have been attempted before and have been turned back by courts. It is likely that this new regulation will also face legal challenges.

If you are seeking asylum in the U.S., it’s important to understand that the federal government will not provide a lawyer for you. However, you have the right to seek legal help. Hiring an immigration lawyer to support you in the asylum application process can be extremely beneficial.