Under both domestic and international law, individuals may seek asylum in the United States if they are fleeing persecution based on certain reasons. When an individual at the border expresses a fear of return to their home country, immigration officials are supposed to refer them to an interview with an asylum officer so the individual can present their case.
Asylum-seekers, however, have recently been facing many obstacles to getting their day in court. First, immigration officials have reportedly been turning individuals away at the border despite their requests for asylum and their statements of fear. Second, many of those that are allowed across the border are placed into detention and then receive inadequate screening. Officers do not always ask individuals if they fear return to their home country or they ignore expressions of fear. In those cases, individuals are subject to ‘expedited removal’ – meaning swift deportation without the opportunity to seek review or see a judge.
Human Rights First issued a report based on a survey of 125 cases of individuals and families denied access at the border in Texas, Arizona, and California. Many of those interviewed stated that border officials told them that the U.S. was no longer granting asylum like before because of the new administration. In reality, though, President Trump has not actually issued any new regulations or policies that would change the way border officers should deal with asylum-seekers. Those expressing a fear of return should, therefore, still have the same opportunity to present their asylum case. Asylum is still being granted, despite what border officials have reportedly been telling asylum-seekers at the border.
Many of those not turned away at the border are immediately placed in detention, including women and children fleeing violence in Central America. Trying to present a claim for asylum while in detention is extremely difficult and legally complicated. The American Immigration Council issued a report describing the most egregious challenges these individuals face. Specifically, the ‘expedited removal’ process has led to many women and children being deported despite having legitimate asylum claims.
Customs and Border Patrol, the department charged with securing U.S. borders, responded by stating that its policies have not changed and they are still complying with their international obligations regarding asylum.