NewsUSA and CanadaU.S. overturns Trump's asylum rule for victims of violence

    U.S. overturns Trump’s asylum rule for victims of violence

    The U.S. government on Wednesday ended two policies of President Donald Trump’s administration that made it harder for immigrants fleeing violence to obtain asylum, especially Central Americans.

    Attorney General Merrick Garland issued new instructions to immigration judges to stop enforcing Trump-era rules that made it harder for immigrants facing domestic or gang violence to get asylum in the United States. It also rescinded a policy that made it harder for immigrants to get asylum based on a family member having been the target of threats.

    The measures could make it easier for immigrants to win their cases for humanitarian protection, and were widely celebrated by activists.

    The significance of this is enormous,” said Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director for litigation at the nonprofit American Immigration Council. This was one of the worst anti-asylum decisions of the Trump era, and this is a really important first step in reversing that.”

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    Garland said he is making the changes after President Joe Biden directed his office and the Department of Homeland Security to prepare rules to deal with complex immigration law issues about groups of people who should be granted asylum.

    Gene Hamilton, a key creator of many of Trump’s immigration policies who worked at the Justice Department, said in a statement that he believed the changes will lead to an increase in asylum claims from immigrants based on criminality issues, and that should not be a reason to grant them humanitarian protection.

    The changes undertaken by Joe Biden’s administration come at a time when immigration authorities have reported unusually high numbers of immigrant encounters at the southern border. In April, border authorities recorded the highest number of encounters in more than 20 years, although many of the immigrants were reattempting to enter after having been previously removed based on special pandemic-related authority. The number of children crossing the border without an adult has also reached historic highs.

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    Many Central Americans arrive at the border fleeing gang violence in their home countries. But qualifying for asylum under federal immigration laws is not easy, and Trump-era policies made it even more difficult.

    More than half of the asylum cases decided in immigration courts in fiscal year 2020 were denied, according to statistics from the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. Four years earlier, the proportion was about one in five cases.

    In the current fiscal year, people from countries such as Russia and Cameroon have recorded higher rates of asylum granted in immigration courts compared to people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, according to the statistics.

    One of the Trump administration’s policies affected migrants fleeing violence from non-state actors, such as gangs, and the other those considered potential victims in their home countries because of family ties, said Jason Dzubow, a Washington immigration lawyer who focuses on asylum matters.

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    Dzubow said he recently represented a Salvadoran family in which the husband was murdered and gang members began threatening the victim’s children. Although Dzubow claimed they were in danger because of their family ties, he noted that the immigration judge denied them asylum, and among the reasons for that he cited the Trump-era decision.

    Dzubow welcomed Garland’s changes, but said he does not foresee suddenly seeing large numbers of Central Americans win their asylum cases, which remains difficult under U.S. law.

    I don’t foresee that it’s going to open the floodgates, and suddenly all the people coming from Central America will be able to win their cases. Those issues are very cumbersome and difficult, he said.

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