New Immigration Rules Could Impact Asylum Seekers

Last updated on January 19, 2021

The government is trying to make the process of applying for asylum harder. Below we explain potential rule changes to the asylum process that could impact asylum seekers in January 2021.

There are many organizations across the country that are fighting to ensure that none of the new rules below impact asylum seekers. We will try to keep you updated as more information becomes available.

1. Rule on Asylum Procedure and Fear Interviews – BLOCKED BY FEDERAL COURT

The first of the new immigration rules, which was going to take effect on January 11, has been blocked by a federal judge. If it had not been blocked, the rule would have changed many things about the process of applying for asylum in the U.S. Specifically, the rule would have done the following:

If you have already started the asylum application process, the new rule would have made it harder to win your case because it:

  • Tries to eliminate asylum for cases based on domestic violence or gang violence;
  • Requires that you show you have suffered or will suffer a more extreme level of harm (than is currently required) in your home country in order to qualify for asylum;
  • Provides more reasons an immgigration judge could use to deny asylum, including not paying taxes or not applying for asylum within one year after arriving in the U.S.; and
  • Allows the judge to make a decision on your asylum application without a court hearing

If you are seeking protection at the Mexico-U.S. border, this rule would have also made it harder to start the asylum process. The new rule would have made it harder to pass a credible fear interview, which is the first step in the asylum process at the border.

These changes were scheduled to take place on January 11, 2021, but many organizations filed lawsuits to block this rule. You can read more about the lawsuits and the decision of the federal judge here.

2. Rule Imposing 15-Day Filing Deadline and New Rules for Asylum Applications – BLOCKED BY FEDERAL COURT

Another one of the new immigration rules, scheduled to take effect January 15, has been blocked by a federal judge. If it had not been blocked, the rule would have  made it more difficult for asylum seekers to submit their asylum application (Form I-589) to the immigration court. Under the rule, the immigration court would have rejected any application that did not follow the form’s instructions very strictly.

The rule also would have created a new, faster deadline for some asylum seekers to submit an asylum application. Under the rule, asylum seekers would have to file their asylum application (Form I-589) within 15 days of their first hearing before an immigration judge.

This rule was scheduled to begin impacting asylum seekers on January 15, 2021, but a group of organizations protecting the rights of immigrants have brought a lawsuit in federal court and blocked the rule.

3. Rule Changing Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and Administrative Closure Process

This new rule makes changes to the process of appealing an immigration case. The biggest change is that if you are appealing a decision of an immigration judge, you would not be allowed to ask for more than one extension for submitting your brief or written arguments (this is separate from the initial Notice of Appeal), and the extension would be no more than 14 days. Under this rule, you would need to file your written arguments to the BIA at the same time the ICE attorney files their written arguments.

This new rule also limits the power of the immigration judge and the BIA to indefinitely pause (also known as “administratively close”) cases. This option was sometimes used in cases where the judge thought it no longer made sense to continue the deportation proceedings. Under the new rule, this option would only exist in a small number of special circumstances. The power of immigration judges to close cases in this way had already been greatly limited by the government, so this would not be a big change.

The rule on appeals and administrative closure is scheduled to begin impacting asylum seekers on January 15, 2021. Like the other rules, immigrants’ rights groups will fight against this new rule in the federal courts and aim to block it. If you are appealing your case or you are asking the court to administratively close your case, then you may want to speak with your lawyer before January 15.

4. Rule on Immigration Court Fees – PARTIALLY BLOCKED BY FEDERAL COURT

A federal judge has blocked the most relevant sections of yet another one of the government’s new immigration rules. The rule would have raised the cost of submitting several different kinds of immigration applications and forms beginning January 19, 2021. The new fees for filing these forms would have gone up between $205 and $865 per form. Now, the only fee change which affects asylum seekers is the fee you must pay if you wish to ask the immigration court to reopen your case. That fee went up from $110 to $145.

The other changes scheduled to take place on January 19, 2021 have been blocked by order of a federal judge.