Immigrant advocates slam Trump asylum changes

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.”

Sherman-Stokes said the asylum changes have “tentacles” that reach across the country, including significant impact in Massachusetts. One of her clients has a 10-year-old boy making his way to the US border while his mother and siblings wait safely in Massachusetts.

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.




Three weeks after the start of the fiscal year, State House budget writers at last reached an agreement on 2020 spending plan, increasing funding for public schools, abandoning a proposed freeze on tuition at the University of Massachusetts, and striking a compromise on a proposal to rein in pharmaceutical spending in the state’s Medicaid program. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker files legislation creating new rules for commercial drivers in the wake of the scandal at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. (CommonWealth)


WGBH dives into the data underpinning the housing crisis in Massachusetts, comparing mortgage payments to median incomes, and mapping typical rents across the state.

Concerned about ageism, the name of the Oxford Senior Center is changed to the Oxford Social Center. (Telegram & Gazette)


The Sunday Times offered a deep dive on Donald Trump’s long history of using race issues for gain, a topic again at the center of the news after his racist attacks on four minority congresswomen. (New York Times) The Globe takes stock of how minority residents in Boston area are reacting to “why don’t they go back” era. Kanwar Singh reflects on the fury he felt when a woman yelled at him to “Go back to your country” near Faneuil Hall last week, and he vows to stay in his country to “reclaim America from hatred and bigotry.” (WBUR)

Al Franken talks about being #MeToo’d. (New Yorker)

An appellate court ruling allows the Trump administration to reward cities that assist with immigration enforcement and withhold funding from sanctuary cities that don’t want to do that. (Eagle-Tribune)


Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse formally announces his challenge to US Rep. Richard Neal. (MassLive)

Bernie Sanders’s New Hampshire “firewall” may be crumbling. (Boston Globe)

Massachusetts must ensure the census counts all of the state’s residents, says Celia DiSalvo of the Fielding Center for Presidential Leadership Study. (CommonWealth)


Businessman Matt Kirk has found success renting out three houseboats in Newburyport for vacationers and staycationers looking to sleep on the water. (Eagle-Tribune)


A new report says nearly a third of high school students in the Boston area with disabilities have experienced cyberbullying over the past year. (Boston Globe)


Keith Hovan, the president and CEO of Southcoast Health System, says traffic congestion is also a health issue. (CommonWealth)

The supply of intravenous immunoglobulin, which is used to treat chronic and life-threatening conditions, has dwindled for unknown reasons, according to Dr. Paul Biddinger, the chief of emergency preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital. (WBUR)


Local philanthropist Jean McDonough gave $10 million to the Worcester Art Museum, the largest gift in the museum’s history. (Boston Globe)

Before Buzz Aldrin became the second man to walk on the moon, he and his first wife, Joan, lived on the South Shore. (Patriot Ledger) 


The MBTA has an extra $1.2 billion in bonding authority. How would you spend it? (CommonWealth)

Andy Monat of TransitMatters reports on how best to alleviate congestion and provide mobility options in Kendall Square. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA finally releases video of the Red Line derailment. (State House News) CommonWealth reported on the video earlier this month.

Salem is trying out limited weekend traffic barricades to make room for bicyclists and pedestrians along busy streets where sidewalks have been insufficient. (Salem News)


The first phase of the controversial Parallel Products recycling facility in New Bedford faces a long list of city hurdles despite winning a state environmental waiver in May. (Standard Times) 

Amid a sweltering heat wave that scorched the region over the weekend, a fire broke out at the Middleboro landfill on Sunday, sending 20 firefighters to douse the dump. (Brockton Enterprise) 


Mohegan Sun’s “all-or-nothing” legal challenge to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s award of a license to Encore Boston Harbor is denied. (CommonWealth)


Judge Patti Saris determined that attorney Keith Miller engaged in strategic litigation against public participation, or a SLAPP suit, in his effort to block a cell tower from going up near his Gloucester home. (Gloucester Daily Times)


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette continues its transition to an all-digital publication. (Pittsburgh Current)


George Cronin, the longtime administrative secretary of the Governor’s Council, died on Friday. Cronin was elected to the council in 1964 and became secretary in 1982. (