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US To Start Charging Asylum Seekers Application Fees


The US will become just one of just four countries to charge asylum-seekers a fee to apply for protections, according to a finalized policy announced Friday.

The move is just the latest by the Trump administration to target and restrict protections for those fleeing their home countries. The US now joins the ranks of Iran, Fiji, and Australia in charging a fee. In the US, asylum-seekers will be charged $50 on asylum applications starting in October.

“A $50 fee is in line with the fees charged by these other nations,” the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) explained in the final rule posted Friday.

However, one asylum officer who spoke with BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said the fee was discouraging.

“The larger problem is that humanitarian applications by their nature should be free,” the officer said. “The idea of charging people who are fleeing — and not helping if they don’t pay up — is disgusting.”

Another asylum officer said it will cost the agency more to collect the fee than $50, “which doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application.”

“This is a penalty against asylum applicants,” the officer added.

The asylum fee is just one of many changes included in the rule issued by USCIS, which is primarily funded by immigrants’ applications, such as filing for a green card or work permit. The agency is required to review its fee structure every two years.

The final rule will make it so immigrants seeking to naturalize and applying to become US citizens will have to pay upwards of $1,170, a jump from $640.

Agency officials said Friday the rule was increasing fees for many applications to recoup money it needs to remain functioning.

“USCIS is required to examine incoming and outgoing expenditures and make adjustments based on that analysis,” USCIS deputy director for policy Joseph Edlow said in a statement. “These overdue adjustments in fees are necessary to efficiently and fairly administer our nation’s lawful immigration system, secure the homeland and protect Americans.”

The agency has been in the midst of a financial crisis for the last several months, warning that it will furlough upward of 70% of staff if it does not receive emergency funding from Congress by the end of August.

The reasons for the funding shortage, though have been debated — agency officials cite a massive decline in immigration applications due to the pandemic, while immigrant advocates and experts argue that the Trump administration’s restrictive policies have played a part in the budget issues.



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Immigration: Supreme Court to consider rights of asylum seekers to challenge expedited removal orders



The Trump administration had asked the court to review an opinion of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that would allow those who have been denied asylum the opportunity to make their claims in federal courts.

If the opinion is ultimately upheld, it could open the doors to more asylum seekers at a time when the administration has attempted to dramatically limit who’s eligible for asylum in the US.

The case centers on Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a native citizen of Sri Lanka who’s a member of an ethnic minority group. He was arrested 25 yards north of the US-Mexico border and placed in expedited removal proceedings. That fast-track deportation procedure allows immigration authorities to remove an individual without a hearing before an immigration judge.

Thuraissigiam applied for asylum, citing fear of persecution in Sri Lanka, and an asylum officer determined he had not established a credible fear of persecution. A supervising officer and an immigration judge affirmed the decision. Under the law, after the denial, Thuraissigiam was ineligible to challenge the finding.

Thuraissigiam went to federal district court, arguing that the expedited removal violated his constitutional rights. A district court said the law did not authorize the court to hear his claims. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, but said the law violates the Suspension Clause, which, the court held, requires Thuraissigiam, even as a noncitizen, to have a “meaningful opportunity” to demonstrate that he is being held against the law.

The Trump administration argued in briefs that the law — which sharply limits judicial review to final orders of removal — was passed so that the asylum system would not be abused. The law offers some exceptions, but they were not met by Thuraissigiam.

“The Ninth Circuit held that the Suspension Clause provides respondent with a constitutional right to additional review of his application for admission, beyond the review Congress has established,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in court briefs. He said Thuraissigiam “failed to satisfy even the threshold screening standard.”

A Congressional Research Service report notes that the Supreme Court “has repeatedly held” that the government may exclude immigrants “without affording them the due process protections that traditionally apply to persons physically present in the United States.”
Expedited removal has been a point of contention in recent months, as the Trump administration has moved to expand the procedure and cast a wider net over undocumented immigrants subject to it. A federal judge blocked the move in a separate case last month.

This story has been updated.



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