Just Neighbors’ Statement on Recent Presidential Memorandum Placing More Restrictions on Asylum Seekers

On April 29, 2019, a Presidential Memorandum (https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-additional-measures-enhance-border-security-restore-integrity-immigration-system/) ordered the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to propose regulations imposing significant barriers for asylum-seekers in search of protection in the United States. While the Memorandum addresses additional issues, some of which contradict each other, we want to highlight that the government intends to charge fees for (i) asylum applications, and (ii) initial applications for employment authorization based on pending asylum applications. Sec. 3. (c). Neither of these two applications require filing fees, currently. The Memorandum also seeks to “bar” asylum-seekers—who are awaiting adjudication of their asylum applications—from employment authorization in the United States. Sec. 3. (d). It is important to note that the asylum adjudication process often takes years (though the Memorandum seeks to implement a 180 processing time for asylum cases), and as the law stands, currently, asylum-seekers already wait at least six months, after the date of filing for asylum, for their employment authorization. It remains unclear how the government plans to implement a fee for employment authorization applications based on pending asylum applications, and simultaneously “bar” asylum-seekers from applying for employment authorization—altogether—while awaiting the outcome of such asylum cases. Nonetheless, the Memorandum seeks to implement both procedures.

At Just Neighbors, many of our clients were unable to receive protection in their home countries because they simply couldn’t afford it. They didn’t have the money to pay corrupt police officers in exchange for protection. Sadly, this Memorandum requires something similar of our clients: they must pay for their protection in this country. If these proposed regulations are fully implemented, countless asylum-seekers will be stripped of the right work and unable to pay the filing fee for an asylum application. If our clients have taught us a cautionary tale based on their experiences in countries around the world, it is that no one should ever have to pay for protection.  We encourage you to comment on these proposed regulations, which are to be published within 90 days of April 29, 2019. (We will provide the link as soon as it is available.)

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The mission of Just Neighbors is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance awareness and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, staff and community.

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