Human Rights First Decries Proposed Rules Designed to Put Pressure on Asylum Seekers, Limit Eligibility

Human Rights First expressed its strong opposition to another proposed rule for the U.S. processing of asylum claims, slated to be issued on September 23, 2020, that would lead many refugees to be denied asylum unfairly or on absurd technical grounds despite their eligibility for asylum.

“This proposed rule is yet another effort to rig the asylum system against refugees and deny them protection in the United States,” said Human Rights First’s managing attorney, Alysha Welsh. “The proposed regulations are riddled with requirements designed to deny refugees asylum for absurd reasons and will make it impossible for many asylum seekers to file timely applications for asylum. The proposal would exacerbate an application process that is already a minefield of technical requirements which many asylum seekers will not be able to meet, especially those who don’t have legal representation. Even experienced attorneys will be unable to overcome some of these nearly insurmountable barriers.”

The proposed rule, if codified, would:

  • Give many asylum seekers – including those in detention, who are unrepresented, or who do not speak English – only 15 days to complete and file their entire asylum application with supporting evidence to the immigration court. It takes most asylum seekers, even those with a lawyer, weeks to complete an application and collect medical records, police reports, and other crucial documentation. This rule would apply to asylum seekers who requested protection at the border and are already targeted by so many of the earlier illegal rules promulgated by the Trump administration;
  • Automatically deny any asylum applications deemed “incomplete” (including for minor errors like forgetting to fill in “N/A” in every single box on the form that does not apply) if the asylum seeker does not resubmit the rejected “incomplete” application within 30 days.
  • Impose impossibly high requirements for asylum seekers to meet if they need to request a continuance for any reason (including in order to obtain additional time to secure legal counsel, to gather critical evidence, to cope with a medical problem or other emergency, or to await adjudication of an application before USCIS, for instance). These new requirements – to show they have an “exceptional circumstances” and also “good cause” – to obtain a continuance beyond a strict 180-day adjudication deadline would only apply to asylum applicants who request a continuance but not to the Department of Homeland Security (which accounts for a substantial proportion of continuance requests);
  • Diminish the credibility afforded to sources for evidence not created by the U.S. government – such as reports issued by independent human rights organizations – in the consideration of asylum cases, and encourage immigration judges to submit their own evidence in the case, allowing the immigration courts to deny asylum based on U.S. government-created evidence packets that will be treated as de facto more credible than other sources.

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