Federal judge blocks the Trump administration's Final Rule on the political asylum process

Trump’s view on political asylum

The political asylum process has changed drastically under the current administration of the US since President Donald Trump, along with his cabinet, have always wanted to reduce the number of immigrants entering the country, including the most vulnerable immigrant communities like asylum seekers.

It is important to clarify that, for immigrants to be admissible in the US under the concept of political asylum, they must demonstrate, through verifiable evidence, that they have been or could be victims of persecution or violence due to their race, religion, sexual orientation, political opinion, inter alia.

However, President Trump states that asylum seekers tend to abuse the local immigration system because they:

  • Make up “fictitious and false” stories to enter the US and apply for political asylum.
  • Cross the borders without documentation to request political asylum within the country, which, in the opinion of the current government, violates guidelines established by the local immigration law.
  • Remain in the US while they receive a response to their asylum applications, which can take months or even more than a year. The Trump administration states that most asylum applications are denied, but that immigrants reside and work in the country during waiting times, taking advantage of the economic system.

Thus, for the past four years, the Trump administration has tried to reduce, restrict, and narrow the possibilities for immigrants to enter the US under the premise of political asylum.

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Latest attempt by the Trump administration to hamper the political asylum process

On December 11, 2020, after the presidential elections, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), along with other federal entities, published a Final Rule that would substantially restrict the political asylum process, which would go into effect on Monday, January 11, 2021.

Broadly speaking, the restrictions proposed by the Trump administration would allow immigration judges to deny asylum applications without a court hearing for multiple reasons, considerably reducing opportunities for immigrants seeking international protection.

For instance, some of the parameters proposed in the Final Rule would decrease possibilities for:

  • Victims of torture by a member of the military, police department, or other government agencies.
  • Immigrants who crossed the borders without prior authorization to request political asylum within the US.
  • Immigrants requesting political asylum on the basis of gender.
  • Victims of gangs.

Therefore, the new Final Rule would substantially narrow the possibilities for asylum seekers and limit the scenarios available to apply to this humanitarian program.

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Federal judge blocks the Trump administration’s Final Rule on the political asylum process

On Friday, January 8, 2021, Judge James Donato of San Francisco blocked Trump’s Final Rule that would substantially restrict the political asylum process and was due to take effect on January 11.

The judge states that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of DHS, did not follow the order of succession correctly, was not confirmed by the Senate and, therefore, did not have the authority or the power to implement these rules, which would diminish options available for the most vulnerable immigrant communities.

Adding to that, it is important to remember that it is not the first time that a local court blocks the Trump administration’s rules because the current acting secretary of DHS does not meet mandatory requirements to make decisions that could transform the immigration system. That is the case of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

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