Presidential Memorandum on Asylum

On April 29, 2019, President Trump issued a memorandum ordering changes to the U.S. asylum policies. The memo orders the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to propose regulations within 90 days that would dramatically alter how asylum seekers obtain protection.

Among the changes, the proposed regulations would:

  • Require asylum seekers to pay a fee just to apply for protection. The regulations would also require applicants to pay a fee to apply for work authorization for the first time. Right now, asylum applicants – who must wait 180 days before qualifying for work authorization – can apply for their initial period of work authorization without paying a fee but are required to pay for subsequent renewals.

  • Place people who have shown a credible or reasonable fear of being persecuted or tortured into limited removal proceedings that would restrict the judges’ ability to consider any forms of relief aside from asylum or withholding of removal.

  • Prohibit anyone who has entered or attempted to enter the U.S. unlawfully from qualifying for work authorization until their asylum applications are approved.

  • Give immigration courts a 180-day limit to adjudicate asylum claims “absent exceptional circumstances.” The White House memo fails to address the 800,000 case immigration court backlog that causes years-long delays to asylum cases and will make it impossible for the government to meet this deadline.

This proposed change would be the first time in U.S. history that asylum seekers would have to pay to apply for asylum. People fleeing violence and persecution are among the most vulnerable in the world, and often leave their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs. Forcing them to pay a fee, even if nominal, would be an insurmountable challenge to many asylum seekers, leaving unable to access protections that they are entitled to under both international and domestic law.

Putting asylum seekers into special, limited proceedings means that the Administration is blocking people – including people who have been victims of crimes or trafficking, or the children that have been abused, abandoned, or neglected – from applying for relief that Congress has made available to individuals in these vulnerable situations.