New Immigration Policy Creates Issues for Asylum Seekers

For many immigrants seeking asylum in the United States, the process become increasingly difficult. The Trump Administration has set forth a new immigration policy that will make it more difficult for individuals fleeing persecution in their home countries to obtain protection in the United States.

Asylum Scheduling Process

There are over 311,000 individuals with pending asylum applications in the Asylum Division of the United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS). Asylum applicants may file for employment authorization after their application has been pending for five months. Within the first year of filing their asylum application, most applicants will receive their work permit. Part of the asylum application process is a scheduled interview with an Asylum Officer. With the number of applications filed greatly exceeding the number of scheduled interviews each month, applicants routinely wait from two to five years to obtain their asylum interviews. For example, in June 2017, statistics show that approximately 11, 414 applications were filed with only 9,753 interviews scheduled. This capacity gap has created a significant backlog of asylum applications.

Given the large backlog, some government officials have expressed concern that filing for asylum may be viewed by some as a “loophole” to obtain employment authorization. To assure that immigrants are filing for asylum to seek protection from persecution and not merely to obtain employment authorization, the Trump Administration has sought to change the asylum interview process.

Effective January 2018, the USCIS will give priority to the most recently filed asylum applications when scheduling asylum interviews. This approach will allow the USCIS to quickly place disqualified asylum seekers into the removal process with the hope of deterring individuals from filing asylum applications for the sole purpose of obtaining employment authorization.

Order of Priority for Asylum Interview Scheduling

Under the new system, applications that had been previously rescheduled due to the needs of the USCIS or the request of the applicant will receive first priority in interview scheduling. Second priority will be given to applications that have been filed within the last 21 days. All other currently pending asylum applications will be given third priority status, starting with the most recently filed applications and working backwards.

For individuals who have already filed asylum applications and have been patiently waiting for their interviews, the status of their application remains indefinitely pending. This change in policy inevitably will delay further the scheduling of their asylum interviews. With no end to the backlog in sight, many asylum seekers will face years of additional waiting before a decision will be made.

Many asylum seekers were forced to leave their family members behind to escape persecution in their home countries. The best hope for reunification with children and spouses is the filing of a Petition for Family Reunification which can only be filed after the granting of asylum. By delaying the scheduling of asylum interviews for long pending applications, the new policy extends the prolonged separation these families already are enduring.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Assist Individuals Seeking Immigration Asylum

If you or a family member is seeking immigration asylum, a multilingual Philadelphia immigration lawyer at Surin & Griffin, P.C. can guide you through the legal process. Our Philadelphia immigration lawyers represent individuals and their families in all areas of immigration law including issues related to removal, deportations, Board of Immigration appeals, visa applications, abuse petitions and asylum. Call us today at 215-925-4435 to discuss your matter further or contact us online.