Biden just made it harder to deny asylum by getting rid of another Trump hurdle


Immigration experts called applications rejected under the Trump administration's 'No Blank Space' policy 'particularly egregious.'

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service confirmed Thursday that it will no longer reject asylum applications if responses are left blank.

In 2019, under the "No Blank Space" policy, the Trump administration started rejecting applications that left spaces blank for information such as a middle name or passport number, even if the applicant did not have any such information to provide.

In November 2020, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and National Immigration Litigation Alliance filed  Vangala v. USCIS, a class-action lawsuit to stop the practice. The Trump administration agreed to halt implementation of the policy during settlement negotiations.

According to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, thousands of applications were rejected, "resulting in lost deadlines for some of the most vulnerable immigrants, including asylum applicants and survivors of serious crimes."

Now the Biden administration is officially reverting to the pre-2019 policy and will no longer reject applications just for leaving certain spaces blank.

"We always thought it was such a crazy policy, just the arbitrary results," Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project told Spectrum News in February. "I'm hopeful that we can continue to work with him to reverse what was just this horrific, Kafkaesque design to impede people from moving forward with applying for lawful status."

The American Immigration Lawyers Association also noted the adverse effects of Trump's policy on vulnerable immigrants.

"These rejections are particularly egregious as the majority of rejected applications left spaces blank for information that was not relevant to an individual’s eligibility, such as leaving blank the space asking for an individual’s name in a native alphabet when the native alphabet was the same as English," the group said.

This is the latest of several steps the Biden administration has taken to reverse Donald Trump's harmful immigration policies.

In February, the administration rescinded a Trump-era policy that implemented a new version of the civics test for U.S. citizenship. Immigration advocates and experts said the test made it harder for immigrants to pass.

"It has more questions to learn, and many of the questions are more difficult than before," Laura Burdick, field support coordinator for the immigration advocacy nonprofit Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., said in an email at the time.

For example, she said, the test required immigrants to name five of the original 13 states, as opposed to the previous version that required three.

Melissa Rodgers, director of programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said in a February statement, "President Trump's citizenship test was the product of bigotry and xenophobia, not civics."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.