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June 29, 2018

DOJ Proposes New Regulations to Block Asylum Seekers from Protection

New York City—Human Rights First today condemned draft regulations reportedly put forth by the Department of Justice that would bar many refugees with well-founded fears of persecution, including individuals who enter the United States between official border points, from protection in this country. The organization notes that such regulations violate both U.S. law and international conventions of which the United States is a signatory. Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer issued the following statement:

These regulations would turn the U.S. asylum system into a farce. Instead of protecting the persecuted, the United States would be deporting the persecuted. Not only would these radical changes violate laws Congress passed and treaties this country has pledged to comply with, but they flatly contradict the very ideals and principles for which this country stands. 

By illegally barring asylum seekers who cross between official border points from accessing protection in the United States, Attorney General Sessions and other immigration extremists in this administration have escalated their attacks on the refugee system. As if separating and indefinitely detaining families weren’t enough, this latest proposal is a full-scale assault on our asylum system, and one that would surely be blocked in court. Clearly the administration hasn’t gotten what they wanted by being as cruel as possible, they are now plotting to propose flat-out illegal regulations as well.

The draft proposal, reported today by Vox would bar refugees who are victims of the administration’s “zero tolerance” prosecutions from being granted asylum; redefine a “particular social group” to exclude from protection refugees whose claims have not previously been challenged by this or any other administration in the last 25 years; require asylum seekers, many of whom lack any form of legal assistance, to provide an exact definition of any “particular social group” on which they are basing their claims or face denial with no possibility of appeal; and deny asylum in the exercise of discretion to anyone who traveled through more than one country to reach the United States or spent more than two weeks in any other country—a situation very common among asylum seekers, many of whom come to the United States because their countries of transit are not signatories to the Refugee Convention or do not have functioning asylum systems. The proposal would also greatly expand the range of criminal convictions that would result in denial of asylum, to include traffic offenses.   

These draft proposals are subject to review by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security before being issued as proposed regulations, which would be subject to a process for public notice and comment. If finally promulgated in anything resembling their current form, these regulations would result in years of litigation, but in the meantime asylum seekers with valid claims and urgent needs for protection would pay a heavy price for this administration’s wanton cruelty. 

For more information or to speak with Acer contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.