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New Asylum Rules Further Outline Challenges for Biden Presidency

The Trump Administration unveiled a new set of laws concerning asylum that are slated to go into effect January 11th, 2021. The changes are expected to greatly reduce the amount of people granted asylum in the United States, part of the administration’s goal to create roadblocks to immigrants hoping to come to the US. This rule will likely face challenges in court before it goes into effect from various immigrant advocacy groups, which could delay its implementation. Assuming it takes effect, this is certainly another rule the Biden administration can attempt to undo. Caution must be used, however, due to severe backlogs in cases and the further strain on the system that could be added if not done correctly.

The new restrictions limit the types of persecution that can result in asylum being granted, most notably denying those who face persecution based on gender or gang violence. The standard for “credible fear” has also been raised, now requiring asylum seekers to prove they face a severe level of harm if they were to remain in their home country. It also adds expedited removal proceedings for certain asylum-seekers. Those who are caught near the border after entering the country illegally will be put in these expedited proceedings, which send the detainee straight to an asylum only hearing. 

This will result in a more “efficient” removal process, meaning those in these hearings will have less time to prepare for them and receive legal aid. The rule punishes applicants who are deemed to have filed frivolous applications. Those deemed to have knowingly filed frivolous applications will be barred from ever receiving any immigration benefits in the United States. It will also punish those who passed through other countries before arriving in the US if they did not first attempt to seek asylum in the other country.

The administration had already created significant hurdles for asylum-seekers with their “Wait in Mexico” policy. This was the policy that mandated that those who arrived at the US border with Mexico must wait in Mexico while their asylum case was adjudicated. With the current backlog of cases, it is not unusual for this process to take years to play out. This has resulted in tens of thousands of asylum seekers being forced to wait in make-shift towns along the border while waiting for their day in court. These border towns only represent a fraction of the total population waiting to reach their court hearing.

Clearly, the United States has a problem with how the asylum process is working. The Trump administration’s answer to the problem seems to be to simply shut it down. This would result in a gigantic humanitarian crisis around the world as seeking asylum is often what keeps an individual or family alive when facing threats to their life. The incoming Biden administration will need to move cautiously when attempting to solve this problem. Flooding the country with thousands of people will put a strain on local communities who would have to support them. However, keeping them waiting in the camps is also not a humane option. While it would be nice for this, and all the other restrictive policies passed by the Trump administration, to be reset, that would not remove the issues that they created while in effect. Solving them will require a delicate approach that considers what is best for all parties involved to avoid creating a new set of problems to deal with. This will be something that will be closely monitored around the world as President Biden and his staff try to untangle the issue.