The Trump administration has released a draft of new regulations that would sharply restrict how asylum is granted to immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking protection. Critics say the proposed changes are so severe that they would effectively shut down the asylum system in this country.
The sweeping restrictions would make it easier for immigration judges to reject asylum requests out of hand. They would, for instance, harden the categories of people who face persecution for their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group.
A Justice Department press release says the 161-page rule would allow "streamlined proceedings" for individuals found to have credible fear, clarify when an application is "frivolous," define terms involved in the adjudication of asylum claims, and raise certain burdens of proof.
The changes "would allow the Departments to more effectively separate baseless claims from meritorious ones," the Justice Department said.
The proposed rule changes are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 15, followed by a public comment period.
The Trump administration has been rejecting what it considers "frivolous" claims by immigrants who say they're fleeing criminal gangs or an abusive spouse.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., blasted the proposed changes as "abhorrent, un-American, and illegal.
"As we have seen time and time again over the last four years, this President is attempting to rewrite our immigration laws in direct contravention of duly enacted statutes and clear congressional intent," Nadler and Lofgren said in statement. "In this historic moment, preserving the rule of law and nation's long tradition of asylum-seeking is crucial. We can and must continue to be a beacon of hope and freedom across the world."
The Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for immigrants fleeing gender-based violence, called the proposed changes "an assault on the fundamental right to seek asylum."
"If implemented, the rule would eliminate gender-based asylum — shutting the door to anyone fleeing life-threatening persecution due to their gender, while undoing decades of legal precedent," the center said in a statement. "Women fleeing rape and severe domestic violence, LGBTQ+ individuals facing deadly attacks, and those escaping other fatal gender-based harms will no longer be allowed to seek safety within our borders if the regulations take effect."