Immigrant advocates slam Trump asylum changes
Claim president can’t change a law with a regulation
IT’S INHUMANE. It’s a violation of international law. It’s not the way things have worked since the mid-1960s. These were the arguments of immigration advocates following last week’s announcement by the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice that rules for claiming asylum in the US would be changing.
Sarah Sherman-Stokes, associate director of the Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Clinic at Boston University Law School, and Susan Church, a partner at the immigration law firm Demissie & Church in Cambridge, say the most massive asylum overhaul since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 is also doing away with due process rights and the governmental rule of separation of powers.
Under the new regulations, an applicant seeking asylum in the US must be denied refuge in each country along the way to the American border.
“It’s blatantly illegal,” said Church on The Codcast. “You cannot change a law that Congress enacted with a regulation that isn’t passed by elected members of Congress.”
Sherman-Stokes added that President Trump could be overreaching his job description. “Trying to change a law with a regulation — this is illegal,” she said, adding that “it flies in the face of our understanding of our separation of powers.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California, arguing that the new regulation is “part of an unlawful effort to significantly undermine, if not virtually repeal, the US asylum system,” and didn’t go through a public process. The suit is asking a district court judge to place a temporary restraining order on the new regulations so they can’t be implemented.
Church and Sherman-Stokes say the ACLU will be successful in proving a violation of existing law by showcasing the “illegal” additional limits on asylum. Their main concern is that, while the injunction is being pursued, many of the 18,000-plus asylum seekers at the border will be subjected to an unlawful standard.
“They have been instructed to apply ‘credible fear interviews’ before the person even sees a judge,” said Sherman-Stokes.The credible fear interview is a preliminary interview asylum seekers have with US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers, where they attempt to demonstrate that they have a credible fear of returning to their home country if their asylum claim is rejected. The interview is often not conducted in the asylum seeker’s own language. Under the new rules, interviewers will disqualify anyone who has gone through another country by foot and not been rejected for asylum in that country.
“These are countries that are not safe. There’s no way you’re going to obtain a full and fair procedure on your asylum claim because, by the time they’re done, you might be dead,” Church said.