On July 9 the Trump administration introduced yet another hateful asylum rule – this time exploiting pandemic fears and weaponizing specious public health claims against immigrant women and others seeking refuge in the United States.
We have just a few days left to speak out and submit public comments opposing the rule before the deadline at 11:59 pm ET on Monday, August 10.
In July our communities came out strong against the administration’s last anti-asylum rule, submitting over 86,000 comments.
Please join us again in speaking up for asylum seekers and making your voice heard!
The Trump administration will be required to consider and respond to every individualized comment they receive. Our comments can help slow down the regulatory process and stop the rule from taking effect before the November election.
The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies’ (CGRS) organizational comment can be read here.
What You Need To Know
For the past four months, the Trump administration has used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to turn away asylum seekers – including unaccompanied children – at our southern border. The administration’s rapid “expulsions” of arriving asylum seekers – a policy CGRS is challenging in federal court – have placed thousands of vulnerable families and children directly in harm’s way.
This new rule uses the same flimsy public health justifications to place even more restrictions on asylum and codify them in binding federal regulations. The rule would allow the administration to categorically bar many individuals from asylum and other life-saving protections and deport them without giving them their day in immigration court.
Public health experts have roundly rejected the administration’s attempts to scapegoat asylum seekers during the pandemic and are urging them to withdraw this new rule. Now we need everyone to voice their opposition.
The rule proposes four major changes that could shut the door on many people fleeing persecution and torture, by:
- Branding asylum seekers as national security threats and barring them from protection if they show any symptom consistent with COVID-19, if they have “come into contact” with the virus, or if they have fled from or passed through a country where the disease is present.
Disturbingly, this bar could apply to asylum seekers who have been exposed to COVID-19 while in the United States, even if they were exposed to the virus while in ICE detention as a result of the administration’s shameful failure to maintain safe and sanitary facilities.
People subject to this bar would be banned from both asylum and withholding of removal, a lesser form of protection that our government is legally required to provide people fleeing persecution.
And in the future this restriction could apply to not only COVID-19, but also many other treatable illnesses (including common sexually transmitted infections) that the administration could declare public health emergencies.
- Applying this new bar at the initial credible fear stage, abandoning the credible fear process’ intended function as a preliminary screening where potential bars to asylum are not considered. Nearly all asylum seekers navigate credible fear screenings without legal representation.
- Forcing asylum seekers to show they can meet heightened criteria for protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) – the last avenue for deportation relief available to people subject to the new rule, with a high standard that can be difficult to prove.
This is a legal standard that is currently applied only in full immigration court hearings, where asylum seekers have the opportunity to prepare their case with the help of an attorney. Meeting it at the initial credible fear stage would be virtually impossible for asylum seekers who arrive at the border alone.
Those denied protection at this stage under the new public health bar would be provided no opportunity to present their case to an immigration judge and would instead be summarily deported.
- Allowing the government to deport asylum seekers to unsafe third countries, even if they are somehow able to meet the standard to apply for CAT protection.
Under the new rule, asylum seekers who against all odds can prove they would face torture in their home country could still be deported by the U.S. government to another country, unless they are able to prove it is “more likely than not” that they would also be tortured in that country – an even more impossible standard to meet.
The proposed rule exploits racist myths of immigrants as carriers of disease, singling out asylum seekers while imposing no such restrictions on tourists or business travelers coming from or passing through the very same countries.
This rule marks yet another blatant attempt by the Trump administration to rewrite our asylum laws and abandon its moral and legal commitments to refugees. We cannot let them get away with it.
Learn More And Take Action
We need as many people as possible to speak out against this shameful attack on asylum seekers. An outpouring of comments from the public will help delay this new rule from taking effect and buy crucial, life-saving time.
The government will accept comments only until August 10.
Several of CGRS’s partners are offering resources to help you craft your comment. Remember: Your comment does not have to be long, but it must be in your own words for it be considered.
- Comment templates from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Human Rights First, and the International Rescue Committee
- Comment template for public health professionals from Human Rights First and public health primer from the Columbia University Program on Forced Migration and Health
- Letter from 170 public health experts, including CGRS Legal-Medical Advisor Stuart Lustig, urging the administration to rescind the proposed rule
- CGRS’s organizational comment on the rule
- Factsheet from Human Rights First, Physicians for Human Rights, and Amnesty International