President Trump directed top immigration officials on Monday to issue new regulations to speed up the resolution of asylum cases in court and institute a fee for asylum applications. Trump also wants to limit employment permits for those who cross the border without authorization.
Trump called on acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Attorney General William Barr to “take all appropriate actions” to propose the regulations within 90 days.
The memorandum is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to dissuade asylum-seekers from crossing the border. In recent months, immigration officials have reported record monthly numbers of family units crossing the border without authorization and department heads have been forced out as the White House looks for ways to toughen immigration enforcement.
“The purpose of this memorandum is to strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process,” Trump wrote.
BuzzFeed News previously reported in December that the Trump administration was considering a proposal to institute a fee for “affirmative asylum” applications.
The memorandum calls for McAleenan and Barr to propose regulations that would place asylum-seekers into asylum-only proceedings, force adjudications of asylum applications within 180 days in immigration court, institute a yet-to-be-determined fee for those applying for asylum, and bar work permits for those who crossed the border without authorization and are in the asylum application process.
“The president's proposed changes hold consistent with his administration's mindset that there are no legitimate asylum seekers,” said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
The memo also calls for the reprioritization of immigration officers that McAleenan deems necessary to “improve the integrity” of credible fear screenings at the border. Such screenings are done by asylum officers, but some officials have said that border agents could soon handle them, causing fear among advocates that screenings will become unjustifiably tougher.
Pierce said that speeding up asylum applications in immigration court was a worthy goal, but that the rest of the proposals were off base and disregarded the legitimacy of arriving migrants’ claims.
“By making the majority of arriving asylum seekers ineligible for employment authorization, charging migrants to apply for asylum, and taking away other forms of relief, the administration is trying to deter future asylum-seekers from arriving at the US border, limit how many can apply for asylum, and limit how many ultimately get to stay in the United States,” she said.