Trump team wants to make people fleeing persecution pay a fee


Seeking asylum is a human right protected by international and national law — but the Trump administration wants to make people pay to apply.

The Trump administration is considering a proposal that would make asylum seekers pay a mandatory fee in order to submit their application for refuge in the U.S., according to a new report.

The proposed policy has not yet been finalized, but if implemented, it would require applicants within the U.S. to pay $50 to apply for asylum, Buzzfeed News reports. The fee would not be waived for asylum seekers who can't afford the cost.

The move comes just two weeks after a federal judge blocked the Trump administration's attempt to turn away all asylum seekers who cross the border into the U.S. illegally.

That ruling, issued November 20, struck down a policy announced 11 days earlier in a proclamation made by Trump, stating that anyone who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border would be ineligible for future asylum claims.

Now, it appears that the Trump administration is trying to achieve the same outcome of reducing asylum applications by implementing a mandatory fee that would affect huge numbers of asylum seekers who have already crossed the border.

According to figures compiled by Buzzfeed, more than 300,000 such applications are currently being processed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Last year, an estimated 100,000 people applied for asylum after crossing into the U.S. seeking safe harbor.

Advocates say the proposed change is inhumane and possibly even illegal, given that asylum-seeking is protected under both national and international law.

According to the American Immigration Council, that protection is guaranteed "to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international law definition of a 'refugee.'"

The right to seek asylum in other countries is also enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"The reason we don't charge for asylum applications is intuitive," immigration attorney Juan Camilo Mendez Guzman told Buzzfeed. "Even if it keeps one person from being able to apply, is that what we are about? We are going to put a dollar amount on not getting sent back to a place of persecution? It's crazy."

The proposal to charge desperate asylum seekers a fee to apply for safe refuge is the latest front in the Trump administration's ongoing war on refugees and immigrants.

Almost immediately after taking office, Trump slammed the door on refugees with his first "travel ban," which prohibited persons from certain Middle Eastern countries from seeking refuge in the U.S., including those fleeing war-torn countries like Syria.

Despite being put on hold and restricted by the courts, the ban still had its intended effect, as refugee admissions from the affected countries plummeted by as much as 99%.

Since then, the Trump administration has made it harder for people fleeing domestic and gang violence to obtain asylum status, while also going after funding for refugee assistance programs and organizations like UNICEF, and even condemning other countries for taking in too many asylum seekers.

Trump has tried to justify these cruel policies by invoking national security concerns and engaging in racist fear-mongering to demonize asylum seekers. However, even the Pentagon has admitted that Trump's refugee policies are actually creating a national security crisis, not solving one.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.