Attorney General Barr is cracking down on asylum seekers and the “catch and release” program that has drawn the ire of President Trump.
The New York Times reported that the Trump administration on Tuesday took another significant step to discourage migrants from seeking asylum, issuing an order that could keep thousands of them in jail indefinitely while they wait for a resolution of their asylum requests.
The order issued by Attorney General William P. Barr was an effort to deliver on President Trump’s promise to end the “catch and release” of migrants crossing the border in hopes of escaping persecution in their home countries.
The order — which directs immigration judges to deny some migrants a chance to post bail — will not go into effect for 90 days. It is all but certain to be challenged in federal court, but immigrant rights lawyers said it could undermine the basic rights of people seeking safety in the United States.
The ACLU is promising to continue the fight.
BREAKING: Attorney General William Barr tonight directed immigration judges to deny bond hearings to asylum seekers.
Our Constitution does not allow the government to lock up asylum seekers without basic due process.
We'll see the administration in court. Again.
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 17, 2019
Attorney General Bill Barr decided Tuesday that asylum seekers who meet the “credible fear” threshold are no longer eligible to be released on bond, stymying at least one method illegal immigrants use to gain access to the United States.
The new rule will apply to all asylum seekers who demonstrate “credible fear” in their home countries, regardless if they turned themselves in at ports of entry or if they were detained between the ports.
Barr’s decision stems from an October 2018 review of Department of Justice (DOJ) policy regarding bond hearings for immigrants seeking asylum, and overrules a previous Board of Immigration Appeals decision from 2005.
According to a DOJ official, Barr was informed by the Immigration and Nationality Act, which states that immigrants who establish credible fear “shall be detained for further consideration of the application for asylum” or may be “parole[d] into the United States . . . for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have the jurisdiction to parole immigrants — otherwise they will be held indefinitely while they wait to appear in front of an immigration judge.
The ability of illegal immigrants to meet the “credible fear” threshold and then be released into the interior of the United States pending further immigration proceedings has proven to be a significant challenge for the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump has accused some immigrants of gaming the asylum system and receiving coaching on how to pass an interview with an asylum officer, even if the immigrant knows they will not ultimately be granted asylum after the full process. According to former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, 80% of asylum cases at the southern border do not conclude with entry to the United States.
Trump addressed this issue at a rally in early April, telling the crowd, “You have people coming up — you know, they’re all met by the lawyers, the lawyers. And they come out, they’re all met by the lawyers and they say, ‘Say the following phrase: I am very afraid for my life. I am afraid for my life.’”
“It’s a big fat con job, folks,” he said.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California handed Trump a rare win this week as well, lifting a temporary injunction on the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases are processed.
The policy serves as an attempt to ease the backlog of cases faced by immigration officials at the southern border, as illegal arrivals are on track to hit 1 million by the end of the year.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on AG Barr’s decision on bond for asylum seekers.