California Attorney General Leads Multistate Coalition in Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Opposing Trump Administration “Death to Asylum” Rule

December 31, 2020 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Wednesday led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in two amicus briefs in support of two separate challenges to a Trump Administration rule that guts major aspects of the existing asylum system and effectively eliminates the meaningful right to apply for protection in the United States. By severely restricting asylum eligibility and abolishing certain procedural protections, the so-called “death to asylum” rule will result in the deportation of bona fide asylum seekers who are certain to face persecution or torture in their home countries. As a result, the rule will inflict direct harm on asylum seekers and the states that welcome them across the country.

“Ignoring those fleeing violence and persecution isn’t just unlawful, it runs counter to our nation’s core values,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The America we believe in is a place of hope and possibility. Nobody wins when President Trump tries to sweep people under the rug and call that a solution. Asylum seekers are entitled under the law to a fair shot at proving their cases. That’s why — alongside our partners across the country — we’re standing united in support of these critical challenges to the Trump Administration’s ‘death to asylum’ rule.”

Set to go in effect on January 11, 2021, the final rule will make it nearly impossible for people to successfully obtain humanitarian relief in the United States. These consequences will fall hardest on survivors of trauma, and victims of gender, gang, and homophobic violence. The rule threatens to do so through a wide range of artificial and arbitrary new barriers. For example, the rule creates a list of adverse discretionary factors that would provide a basis for unilaterally denying even meritorious asylum applications. These discretionary factors include barring asylum seekers who do not enter with inspection through a port of entry or who do not seek protection from a third country through which they have traveled, even if seeking asylum in the third country is dangerous or infeasible. In addition, the rule inexplicably applies many of these same discretionary factors to unaccompanied children, making them more likely to be denied asylum and undermining critical safeguards for minors. Ultimately, the rule will make it all but impossible for asylum seekers to secure protection.

In the friend-of-the-court briefs, the coalition argues, among other things, that the rule will:

  • Undermine our country’s and the states’ commitment to being a safe haven for asylees fleeing persecution by upending the current asylum system and increasing family separation;
  • Hinder enforcement of legal protections and criminal laws by pushing those who might otherwise seek asylum into the shadows where they are more vulnerable to exploitation;
  • Burden state programs, leading to an increased need for legal representation to navigate the extremely complex asylum process made even more complex by this rule, as well as medical and mental health services; and
  • Harm the states’ economies and workforces, robbing them of essential workers and their contributions to local businesses.

Attorney General Becerra remains committed to fighting for the rights of hard-working immigrants in California and across the country. In July, the Attorney General led a multistate comment letter pushing back on the “death to asylum” rule when it was initially proposed. Earlier this month, Attorney General Becerra filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a United Farm Workers challenge to a U.S. Department of Labor rule that will depress temporary-visa holder and domestic farmworker wages throughout the United States. In November, the Attorney General led an amicus brief challenging two executive proclamations threatening to disrupt vast portions of the country’s immigration system and keep immigrant families apart. In May, the Attorney General pushed for safer working conditions for meat and poultry workers, many of whom are immigrants. As COVID-19 began to sweep through the United States, Attorney General Becerra called on the Trump Administration to halt implementation of the public charge rule to help combat the spread of the disease. Earlier this year, the Attorney General also led the fight to protect Dreamers before the U.S. Supreme Court, securing a landmark decision upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. He also fought back against a proposal that would prevent asylum-seekers and their families from becoming self-sufficient while awaiting adjudication of their cases.

In filing the amicus briefs, Attorney General Becerra is joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

By Sierra Sun Times
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