Thursday, March 09, 2017

Trump 'quietly' makes asylum harder for women and children fleeing violence (gabe Ortiz) · Wednesday, March 08, 2017, 3:41 pm

In his ongoing quest to “Make America White Again” by speeding up the mass deportation of brown people, Donald Trump’s administration has “quietly” toughened up the criteria for vulnerable people seeking asylum in the US, a move that could affect the thousands of Central American women and children who flee gang violence and death in their home countries annually:

The issue at stake is what's known as "credible fear." When an immigrant arrives at the US without authorization to enter, he or she can make a claim that he or she is fleeing persecution or torture, and thus is entitled to asylum in the US under the law.

Eventually, an immigration judge decides whether or not a person is entitled to asylum. But the first step is an interview with an asylum officer, who determines whether the person has a credible fear of persecution or torture and thus can continue in the immigration courts.

According to the CNN report, more than 73,000 asylum seekers were allowed to pursue their cases during the 2016 fiscal year. But because hearings before an immigration judge can sometimes be several years away due to backlogs, many of these families end up building lives in the US as they wait for their day in court—something the anti-immigrant crowd has long despised. The new policies—distributed to asylum officers “without the fanfare of Trump's executive orders and implementation guidance” notes CNN—are just what they’ve been waiting for:

Immigration conservatives have long targeted this process for letting in undocumented immigrants, decrying what they call "catch and release" -- a policy Trump has vowed to end by increasing detentions and deportations of immigrants.

Changes to the lesson plans for credible and reasonable fear may seem minor to most Americans. For example, the new guidance removes a passage from the previous version that said if an asylum officer has reasonable doubt about a person's credibility, they should likely find credible fear and allow an immigration judge to hear the question at a full hearing.

In another change, a passage has been altered on individuals' "demeanor, candor, and responsiveness" as a factor in their credibility. Both the 2017 and 2014 versions note that migrants' demeanor is often affected by cultural factors, including being detained in a foreign land and perhaps not speaking the language, as well as by trauma sustained at home or on the journey to the US.

But the new version removes guidance that said these factors shouldn't be "significant factors" in determining someone's credibility -- essentially allowing asylum officers to consider signs of stress as a reason to doubt someone's credibility.


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