On June 15, 2020, the Trump administration issued new proposed rules pertaining to asylum seekers. While these rules have not gone into effect yet, they will result in a devastating blow to asylum seekers if they pass the rulemaking process.
First, this rule makes several changes to the credible fear screening process. Under current immigration and asylum law, arriving aliens to the United States are given a credible fear interview. This is an interview which takes place usually over the phone by an asylum officer and an interpreter. The asylum officer interviews the arriving alien to determine whether that person has a credible fear of returning to the alien's home country or country of residence. If the alien does not pass the credible fear interview, the alien is given an opportunity to appeal that decision before an immigration judge and ask the judge to vacate the decision of the asylum officer. If the alien either passes the credible fear interview or has an immigration judge issue a decision vacating the decision of the asylum officer then the alien will have an opportunity to apply for asylum with an immigration judge and have a full blown asylum hearing.
First, the standard of proof would be heightened, placing an increasingly difficult burden on the alien to prove his case and who, at this stage of the matter, is not entitled to have an attorney represent him. Additionally, for anyone found to have a frivolous case for asylum, the alien would be permanently barred from ever seeking relief in the future.
Also, in every asylum case, an immigration judge is given an opportunity to deny the asylum claims in discretionary grounds. This rule seeks to add a provision given the judge an additional opportunity to deny on discretionary grounds if the alien either entered or attempted to enter the United States illegally.
Third, the Trump definition is also seeking to narrow the definition of "particular social group" by adding certain categories of individuals who would not per se meet the "particular social group" definition. More specifically, the proposed regulation provides a “nonexhaustive” list of nine “circumstances” that “without additional evidence” would be considered “generally insufficient to demonstrate a particular social group that is cognizable because it is immutable, socially distinct, and particular.” The nine circumstances excluded from consideration as members of a particular social group are: 1) Past or present criminal activity or association (including gang membership); 2) presence in a country with generalized violence or a high crime rate; 3) being the subject of a recruitment effort by criminal, terrorist, or persecutory groups; 4) the targeting of the applicant for criminal activity for financial gain based on perceptions of wealth or affluence; 5) interpersonal disputes of which governmental authorities were unaware or uninvolved; 6) private criminal acts of which governmental authorities were unaware or uninvolved; 7) past or present terrorist activity or association; 8) past or present persecutory activity or association; or 9) status as an alien returning from the United States.
Fourth, the proposed regulation seeks to limit the "political opinion" asylum category by requiring that for a “political opinion” to form the basis of an asylum or withholding of removal claim it would have to relate specifically to political control of a government. This would exclude many categories of political opinion such as those people fighting for reform of its government or people opposing certain laws or regulations issued by the government.
Finally, the rule also seeks to change the term of "persecution" by making the definition more severe than what is presently required. The rule defines persecution as “an extreme concept involving a severe level of harm that includes actions so severe that they constitute an exigent threat.”
These proposed rules simply provide further proof that the Trump administration will go to any length necessary to prevent people from entering the United States. It is simply another step in cutting off the United States from the world around us and preventing us from complying with the international treaties that we are signatories to.