Trump’s Assault on Asylum Blocked Again
Back in June, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a change in US policy when it comes to those who apply for asylum. Those seeking asylum would no longer be able to do so by citing fears of domestic abuse or gang violence. This announcement reversed an Obama era policy that allowed more women to seek asylum for those reasons. Many immigrant-advocacy groups argued that the new policy would make it basically impossible for battered women to seek asylum. However, earlier this month Judge Emmet Sullivan, of Washington’s federal trial court, ruled that Trump’s policy was inconsistent with Congress’s intent in adopting the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Under US law, people that are granted refugee status are protected from deportation back to their home country. A refugee is defined as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Once a non-citizen arrives at a US border, they are subject to an expedited removal process in order to quickly determine whether they can be deported. However, if the non-citizen tells a Customs and Border Protection official that they fear persecution and that they wish to seek asylum, they are interviewed to determine if they have a legitimate credible fear or reasonable fear. If the asylum officer determines that the person does not have a credible fear, the non-citizen is removed immediately, but if they fear is found to be legitimate, they are referred to immigration court to begin the asylum application process. The change announced in Trump’s policy would have rejected most asylum seekers at the interview stage, never allowing them to get to the application process, which can take years to resolve. Under Judge Sullivan’s decision asylum seekers won’t be summarily denied once they announce that there fear is based on domestic abuse or gang violence.
While challengers to the Trump administration’s immigration policies have experienced victories at the trial level, the administration has said that it will appeal the decisions. Given that the Supreme Court now has a conservative majority, it remains to be seen whether those victories will be permanent.