Trump charges ahead with his 'bad idea' to charge asylum-seekers a fee

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Experts say it's absurd to charge a fee to desperate people who often come to the U.S. with 'little more than the shirts on their backs.'

On Monday night, Trump released the details of a new plot to make life even more difficult for immigrants fleeing violence, torture, and threats to their families.

The centerpiece of Trump's plan is to charge an application fee to everyone seeking asylum in the United States, a plan which was first floated near the end of 2018.

It's bad enough that Trump wants to charge families fleeing tragic circumstances money that they might not have. But Trump also wants to restrict work permits for those seeking asylum, and rush asylum-seekers through the court system in a way that could harm their ability to make their case.

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Trump's plan, which he laid out in a memo written to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and Attorney General William Barr, demands that court cases around asylum-seekers to be concluded in 180 days — even though many cases now take years, thanks to a massive backlog of cases caused by the government's failure to properly invest in the immigration court system.

Advocates who work with the immigrant community told the Washington Post that they worry that if the 180-day deadline is strictly adhered to and the administration fails to hire more judges, rushing cases through the court system would limit the ability of asylum-seekers to hire a lawyer and gather the evidence they need to make their claim.

Trump gave McAleenan and Barr 90 days to come up with new regulations and policies outlined in the memo.

Reactions to Trump's latest attack on immigrants were swift and critical.

The notion of charging asylum-seekers a fee is just a "bad idea," David Martin, a former Homeland Security deputy general counsel who worked on asylum issues in the 1990s, told the Post. Asylum seekers "tend to be very short on resources," he said. "If you're going to leave the possibility of refuge for people who legally qualify truly open, you wouldn't impose a barrier of a fee."

"The majority of people coming to the United States seeking asylum are coming with little more than the shirts on their back," Victoria Neilson, a former official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told Reuters.

The idea of restricting work permits to those waiting for their court cases also puzzled immigration advocates. Work permits are granted "so that they can support themselves and don't have to be depending on government assistance during that time," Michelle Brané, director of migrant rights and justice at the Women's Refugee Commission, told the New York Times.

Trump's anti-immigrant attacks are also wildly unpopular with the American public. In a poll taken before Trump laid out the specifics of his new plan, only 30% of Americans said they supported making it harder for immigrants seeking asylum. An overwhelming majority (61%) supported making it easier or leaving the laws as they are.

The changes to asylum policy are just Trump's latest attack on immigrants. Last week, a Department of Homeland Security proposal outlined a way to speed up the deportations of immigrants though a scheme that bypasses the federal court system.

In February, Trump declared a fake national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border in order to steal billions allocated to other priorities and build a racist border wall.

Trump is "solely interested in encouraging bigotry and enacting xenophobic policies that leave immigrants more vulnerable," Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) told Shareblue Media, calling the new asylum proposal a "hateful policy."

"By putting a price on freedom, Trump is saying that America is only a home for those who are worth a certain amount of money," Chu added.

"He may judge people solely on their financial wealth, but we do not."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.