On July 9, 2020 the current administration proposed its latest rules change geared toward denying due process to asylum seekers under the guise of acting to protect public health by refusing to admit/process those with asylum claims because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
The IWC advocacy committee invites you to learn more about this proposed rules change below and, if so moved, to formulate an opinion that you can share with the DHS and DOJ during the comment period ending on August 10, 2020.
The more constructive comments received, the longer it will take the administration to implement the rule. By that time, God willing, a new administration will be taking office that will be tasked with restoring due process to our asylum system.
Comments Due by August 10, 2020
Proposed rule change from Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice-Executive Office for Immigration Review (RIN 1125-AA94 or EOIR Docket No. 18- 0002):
This proposed rule would amend existing DHS and DOJ (collectively, “the
Departments”) regulations to clarify that the Departments may consider emergency public health concerns based on communicable disease due to potential international threats from the spread of pandemics when making a determination as to whether “there are reasonable grounds for regarding [an] alien as a danger to the security of the United States” and, thus, ineligible to be granted asylum or the protection of withholding of removal in the United States …
More information about the proposed rule:
This proposed rule would amend existing DHS and DOJ (collectively, “the Departments”) regulations to clarify that the Departments may consider emergency public health concerns based on communicable disease due to potential international threats from the spread of pandemics when making a determination as to whether “there are reasonable grounds for regarding [an] alien as a danger to the security of the United States” and, thus, ineligible to be granted asylum or the protection of withholding of removal in the United States under Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) sections 208 and 241 and DHS and DOJ regulations. The proposed rule also would provide that this application of the statutory bars to eligibility for asylum and withholding of removal will be effectuated at the credible fear screening stage for aliens in expedited removal proceedings in order to streamline the protection review process and minimize the spread and possible introduction into the United States of communicable and widespread disease. The proposed rule further would allow DHS to exercise its prosecutorial discretion regarding how to process individuals subject to expedited removal who are determined to be ineligible for asylum in the United States on certain grounds, including being reasonably regarded as a danger to the security of the United States. Finally, the proposed rule would modify the process for evaluating the eligibility of aliens for deferral of removal who are ineligible for withholding of removal as presenting a danger to the security of the United States.
IWC concerns with proposed changes:
The proposed rule would potentially block the following applicants from asylum protections:
- Those who traveled through a country with a COVID-19 outbreak, even if they did not test positive for the virus or exhibit any symptoms;
- Asylum-seeking nurses, doctors, health aides, cleaners and all other essential
personnel who have “come into contact with” COVID-19; and
- Those who have fallen ill from COVID-19 while in the U.S. awaiting their asylum hearing, including those who have contracted the disease while in ICE detention centers.
This proposed rule is not consistent with existing US law/regulations and international treaties monitored by the UN.
The Administration is implementing this, as with other proposed rules, to further erode protections afforded under US immigration laws and regulations.
This effort continues to stoke fear rooted in ignorance, and misuse of public health guidelines and CDC information. For immigration judges or any DHS agents to deny the due process rights of asylum seekers due to “public health concerns” during this pandemic appears to be beyond their scope and, in fact, functions as a manipulation of a crisis to serve the stated goals of the administration (especially for an administration that refuses to exercise leadership in combatting the pandemic even at the most basic level of providing rhetorical support for CDC recommended mitigation strategies).
Those seeking asylum could be denied their claim based upon “reasonable grounds” that do not require any diagnostic testing to verify if a person is infected and thereby a source of transmission.
There are people crossing from Mexico into the US all day and night long as Green Card holders and commercial conveyors. Their temperatures are not taken and there is no handwashing available on our side of the border. This proposed rule is prejudicial against asylum seekers1.
This is why IWC needs you and those with whom you share this call-to- action who are concerned about the well-being of asylum seekers and the soul of America to act now by submitting your comments. Below you will find sample comments for your reflection provided by Texas Impact, but we encourage you to put things into your own words and express as many substantive concerns as you can.
To file comments electronically on the proposed rule categorizing asylum seekers arriving from countries affected by COVID-19 as a security danger to the US please click this link to the Federal Register site.
You may also submit written comments to the addresses listed below:
RE: RIN 1125-AA94 or EOIR Docket No. 18-0002, Public Comment Opposing Proposed Rules on Asylum, and Collection of Information OMB Control Number 1615-0067
Lauren Alder Reid, Assistant Director, Office of Policy, Executive Office for Immigration Review,
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 1800, Falls Church, VA 22041
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget,
725 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 20503;
Attention: Desk Officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS
1 July 30 webinar hosted by human rights first and Physicians for Human Rights
Sample comments from Texas Impact:
“I am opposing the Administration’s proposed rule that seeks to bar asylum seekers from entering the U.S. on public health grounds because it is an unjust, discriminatory measure that would exploit the current pandemic to eliminate crucial protections for asylum seekers in the future.
This rule does not reflect my values or moral principles as a member of the faith community.
The Administration has been downplaying the severity of the virus for months to the American public yet continues to use it as a means of implementing some of its cruelest changes in policy. This rule is baseless, unnecessary, and a failure of the U.S.’ commitment and obligations to protect asylum seekers for several reasons:
First, the bar to asylum is not simply a new bar but is expanding the current bar on those who are considered to be a “danger to the security of the United States,” a definition that is typically applied to those engaged in terrorist activities.
Second, the UNHCR has previously stated that states are entitled to impose measures to protect public health, but that any such measures should be “blanket” measures universally applied. The proposed rule is not a blanket measure and the Administration is directly attacking asylum protections—a right afforded in both international and domestic law.
Third, public health experts in the U.S. have confirmed that the Administration can continue to provide protections to vulnerable populations and safeguard the health of Americans – one does not preclude the other.
The proposed rule is but the latest in Administration’s persistent chipping away at protections for vulnerable populations, undoing our asylum system, and undermining our claim as a proponent and protector of human rights. I am saddened by the continuous attacks on asylum seekers and believe that the U.S. should focus its efforts on creating a system that can serve as an example to the international community that not only upholds its obligations but serves to help those in need.”
If you have any difficulty submitting comments, please contact:
FOR USCIS: Andrew Davidson, Asylum Division Chief, Refugee, Asylum and International Affairs Directorate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS; telephone 202-272- 8377 (not a toll-free call).
For EOIR: Lauren Alder Reid, Assistant Director, Office of Policy, Executive Office for Immigration Review, telephone (703) 305-0289 (not a toll-free call).