Trump Administration Seeks to Bar Convicted Immigrants From Obtaining Asylum

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The Trump administration is seeking to block immigrants convicted of drunk driving, domestic violence, or a gang-related crime from qualifying for asylum protection under a proposed new rule.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on Wednesday announcing their plan to expand the number of crimes that would disqualify an immigrant from seeking asylum. The departments said in a statement that the proposed rule aims to help them “devote more resources to the adjudication of asylum cases filed by non-criminal aliens.”

The Immigration and Nationality Act already bars certain categories of immigrants from receiving asylum, such as those who were involved in the persecution of others, convicted of particularly serious crimes, or involved in terrorist activity.

The proposed rule adds an extra seven categories of crimes that would make immigrants ineligible from receiving protection in the United States. Some of the crimes include a felony under federal or state law, alien smuggling, illegal re-entry, and other misdemeanors. The proposal will still need to go through a public commenting period—which will end on Jan. 21 next year—before it can be implemented.

The rule is widely viewed as another move by the Trump administration to control the number of asylum applications at the southern border. The United States saw an unprecedented number of illegal immigrants crossing the border into the country at the southern border earlier in the year, which garnered significant attention. The influx of illegal immigrants who traveled through Mexico from Central America had overwhelmed border facilities, resources, and the immigration system.

There were 977,509 apprehensions or people deemed inadmissible along the Southwest Border in the 2019 fiscal year, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Although the number of illegal immigrants apprehended at the border has declined in recent months due to a number of Trump administration policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols, the department’s proposed rule appears to address the backlog of active cases that are currently being processed in the system.

The number of active backlog cases pending in U.S. immigration courts through to August 2019 has exceeded one million, according to the latest data from the research center Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The backlog of pending court cases has surged this year when compared to previous years. Last year, there were 768,257 cases in total; in 2017, it was 629,051.

The proposed rule would also remove the requirement to reconsider a discretionary denial of asylum. The departments say this would make immigration courts more efficient and reduce any cost related to the increased adjudication time as it will no longer require a second review of the same application by the same judge.

This comes after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new policy guidance that would implement two decisions issued by Attorney General William Barr in October that would impact immigration determinations.

The decisions related to how post-sentencing changes to criminal sentences impact convictions for immigration purposes and how two or more driving under the influence convictions affect good moral character determinations, according to a USCIS policy alert (pdf).

On Friday, the DOJ announced that they had sworn in 28 new immigration judges bring the number of immigration judges on the bench to over 465.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan


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