President Trump Issues Memorandum Calling for Additional Restrictions on Asylum Seekers

On Monday, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum calling for the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to propose new regulations aiming to enhance border security and “strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process.”

The memo specifically calls for the development of regulations that do the following:

  1. Ensure that asylum seekers who receive “positive fear determinations,” following an initial interview by asylum officers, are then placed in asylum-only proceedings or withholding-of-removal-only proceedings before an Immigration Court;
  2. Ensure that “absent exceptional circumstances,” all asylum applications before the Immigration Court are decided on within 180 days from the date of filing;
  3. Set a filing fee for an asylum application and the initial application for work permits of asylum applicants (both of which are currently free); and
  4. Bar asylum applicants who have entered or attempted to enter the United States illegally from receiving work permits before their asylum or withholding of removal applications are granted and immediately revoke the work permits for asylum applicants whose applications have been denied or who have become subject to a final order of removal.

The memo also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to allocate immigration officers in such a way that will “improve the integrity of adjudications of credible and reasonable fear claims, to strengthen the enforcement of the immigration laws, and to ensure compliance with the law by those aliens who have final orders of removal.”

The officials who will be responsible for developing these new regulations and implementing the memo’s directives are unclear.  Former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April, and the Trump Administration has not announced a nominee for her replacement at the Department of Homeland Security.  Also in April the Trump Administration withdrew its previous nomination of Ron Vitiello to be the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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