Changes in Asylum

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The Trump era has been a rough time in America for asylum seekers. The longer the Trump administration has been in office, the greater the range of restrictions on those seeking asylum. Refugees are always a present phenomenon in the domain of immigration, but during a pandemic, it is understandable that more people will be seeking asylum. Despite the fact that the United States was the worst-hit country in terms of numbers by the COVID-19 pandemic, the infrastructure of the American health care system was capable of withstanding the crisis better than many countries. Especially 3rd world countries, where widespread disease is as common as McDonald’s is in the United States. 

 

While President Donald Trump and his administration have made names for themselves when it comes to anti-immigration policies, this has been especially true during the COVID-19 era. Fundamentally, they have used this era as an opportunity to be as anti-immigrant as the laws permit –part of such laws, luckily, includes the degree to which democrats and immigration-friendly republicans can block the president and his administration. This has been the case on almost all fronts of immigration, but we will begin here by talking about asylum. 

 

Since COVID-19 forced the United States to effectively shut down, thousands of individuals who were here in the hopes of seeking asylum have been sent back across the border. Indeed, in March of 2020, Donald Trump proclaimed an executive order which basically told border patrol agents to deport incoming asylum seekers as quickly as possible, rather than actually process them as thoroughly as possible. This is an order which, of course, is terrible. It has been deemed illegal under national law by the United Nations and it has been widely criticized as unethical: because it is. Nonetheless, there has not been any legal challenge to this law and despite the fact that the Trump administration claimed it was only temporary, it remains in place still. To be candid, what this really is, is almost a wholesale ban on asylum-seeking. Those who were already in the country seeking asylum, who were being processed, are now being deported at greater numbers, and those who are coming to the U.S. for new asylum proceedings are being turned around upon entry. Thousands of children have been displaced in the process and the health of asylum seekers has been put at a profound risk –sending such individuals back to countries that simply has little to no medical infrastructure to deal with the seriousness of the COVID-19 crisis.

What about those individuals who have not been deported? This is something to feel lucky about in some ways, but in other ways not so much. On the one hand, you will not have to go back to the country you were fleeing from just yet, or ever. Which is to say, you still have the opportunity to have your asylum granted. Hence, not all hope is lost. On the other hand, however, it is the case that your case for asylum has almost definitely been delayed. Given this, it might be the case that you are now in an asylum center –a place that is notorious for dangerous conditions, like poor sanitation, medical care, and even food. A huge danger here is that many of these asylum seekers will contract the coronavirus, only to be left to a system –or lack thereof, more precisely– that will be unable to help them under such circumstances. This danger is not just a potential, but rather, a reality: there have already been cases in asylum seeker camps where individuals have tested positive for COVID-19.  And while many of these suspensions have ended, many have not. Indeed, some of these suspensions have been extended as far out as 2021!

 

How long will this last? It is difficult to say. Most experts believe that Trump will try to extend this ban out as long as he is in office. Likewise, many experts also believe that the ban might still be in place even if Trump is not reelected due to the COVID-19 crisis –many Americans support such bans, as travel restrictions across the globe, of all forms, has become a new norm due to the risk of spreading disease. Which is to say, the fate of asylum seekers in America is extremely uncertain. It could be that if Trump is not reelected, Joe Biden might reinstate some of the pre-COVID freedom for asylum seekers, or, out of sheer fear of COVID-19, might keep much of this ban until the pandemic is over. Given Biden’s immigration plan –which on most fronts, is pro-immigration–, it is much more likely that he will force ICE to back off and loosen the restrictions on immigration. Given that the democratic party –even those within it who are ordinarily more traditionally liberal– is tilting more and more towards progressive ideas, Biden is likely to dip his feet in these ideas. 

Thus, the important thing to keep in mind here is that while the situation regarding asylum at the moment is dismal, it is only temporary. There will not be a permanent and/or all-encompassing ban of asylum seekers in the United States. For now, a few things need to be encouraged in order to ensure the safety of current asylum seekers. Number one is that social distancing protocols need to be enforced and medical supplies need to be allocated to asylum centers and detention areas. To have a population of individuals fleeing the virus and other terrible conditions, only to be thrust into terrible conditions in enclosed spaces is profoundly unethical and unwise. Next, the United States needs to lift the executive order on asylum seekers, which seeks to push them away at the border more readily. At this point in the pandemic, we have testing. If people test positive at the border for COVID-19, we can ask them to quarantine for 2 weeks and then to come back and get retested. Negative tested individuals should have no issue getting processed. Given the overabundance of testing available now, this really should not be an issue. It is clear that the executive order was one that is simply taking advantage of the situation, rather than one that has the health of people in mind. Ultimately, our immigration policy should have ethics in mind, not politics. The hope is that with our next president this will end up being the case –and more and more, this looks likely: thus, don’t despair yet! 

Attorney Advertisement: Prior Results Do Not Guarantee Future Outcomes

Sources:

https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/coronavirus-refugee-asylum-law/

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/30/us-asylum-seekers-covid-19-mexico-matamoros

https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/mpp/

https://time.com/5830807/asylum-seekers-coronavirus-mpp/

We are Gehi & Associates. We are NYC/Queens/Brooklyn/Manhattan/Bronx/Staten Island immigration lawyers. We are here to serve our NYC/Queens/Brooklyn/Manhattan/Bronx/Staten Island communities. We do bankruptcy, family/divorce, immigration and all forms of law. Please come to one of our Queens offices. Email us at info@gehilaw.com to set up your free initial personal consultation.

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