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Features & Columns

Trump Administration Considers Making Asylum-Seekers Pay for Application

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Trump Administration Considers Making Asylum-Seekers Pay for Application

2018-12-05 17:48:591 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Migrant camp (Image source: Screenshot)


With regards to the migrant situation the past few months, it seems like Donald Trump is just throwing whatever he can at the wall to see if anything sticks. The latest move is a suggestion that anyone applying for asylum will have to pay $50. 

Trump and his administration have tried so many things to prevent this situation, but the migrants are desperate to leave poverty and violence behind in Central America and move to the United States.


Trump has issued many threats to prevent the migrants from showing up at the border, but those threats didn't work. Instead, more migrants joined the group. He's also tried to change legislation and even stationed military at the border, but the migrants remain undeterred. 

The recent proposal is not yet finalized, but suggests charging asylum applicants who are already in the United States $50. There currently isn't a fee to apply.


This would not apply to migrants who claim a fear of persecution at ports of entry or those who apply for protection while going through deportation proceedings. Those who cannot afford the $50 would not be able to have that waived. 

What it appears to mean is that they know they will not be able to stop migrants from crossing the border illegally. But if they do and then try to apply for asylum, they will be charged $50.


It could be a lucrative business for the U.S., as currently there are 300,000 cases pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services where this $50 fee would apply. More than 100,000 people applied for asylum last year. 

The Trump administration has been trying to institute changes with the belief that the current process is often abused. Many of these changes have been called out for being illegal and/or inhumane.


"People will say, '$50? What's $50?' But that's not the point. This [seeking asylum] is not something people are doing voluntarily. It flies in the face of what asylum and refugee requests are," said a former chief counsel at USCIS and current director of an advocacy organization, Ur Jaddou. 

"These are people fleeing something and looking for protection from us ... for us to turn around and say 'that's nice, we'd like to help, but you'd have to pay a fee' seems contrary to the point."


Other immigration fees, such as filing for a green card, a work permit, or an application for a family member who would like entrance into the country is a primary source of income for the immigration agency. 

Every two years the agency is required to review its fees, revenues, costs, and needs. In 2016 the agency increased most of their fees, including citizenship applications and certifications.


They do not charge for some humanitarian applications, including visas for crime victims, working with police, or for human trafficking victims. 

Just the thought that the U.S. would charge this fee to asylum-seeks has upset immigration attorneys.


"The reason we don't charge for asylum applications is intuitive," said Juan Camilo Mende Guzman, an immigration attorney.  

"Even if it keeps one person from being able to apply, is that what we are about? We are going to put a dollar amount on not getting sent back to a place of persecution? It's crazy."


An analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, Sarah Pierce, just sees this fee suggestion as another way for the Trump administration to make things really difficult for those seeking asylum. 

"It is true that bad actors have taken advantage of our backlogged asylum system and that it is important to address the weaknesses that allow that to happen, but taking steps that punish legitimate asylum-seekers is not the way to go."

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