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Asylum seekers come to the U.S. fleeing poverty. Trump wants to charge them an entry fee.

by Emma Ockerman
Apr 30 2019, 2:10pm

President Trump’s latest plan to block immigrants seeking asylum: charge them.

In a presidential memorandum released late Monday, Trump proposed migrants be forced to pay for their asylum applications, making the U.S. an outlier in roadblocking asylum-seekers with fees. The government didn’t say how high or low that fee might be.

The memorandum comes as the president ramps up his verbal attacks on asylum-seekers. Trump has repeatedly alleged that they are exaggerating their fears of returning home, though they’re often fleeing extreme violence and poverty. The move is part of the administration's broader efforts to make it more difficult for asylum-seekers to enter the United States, like forcing them to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed.

Trump made clear that his signature issue of immigration will continue to be a focus of his 2020 re-election campaign, which he highlighted in a tweet after the memorandum was released.

“If the Democrats don’t give us the votes to change our weak, ineffective and dangerous Immigration Laws, we must fight hard for these votes in the 2020 Election!” Trump tweeted Monday night.

More than 103,000 immigrants came into the U.S. last month from the southern border, primarily Central American families seeking their legal right to an asylum claim based on “credible fear” of returning to their home countries. Asylum-seekers fleeing Honduras, for example, are escaping one of the poorest countries in Central America — one out of every five people there makes less than $1.90 a day and live in “extreme poverty,” according to the World Bank — and one of the most violent nations in the world. It’s unclear how many asylum seekers would be able to afford an added fine, as migrants often struggle to pay for things like bus tickets and hotels. Some exhaust their savings after paying thousands to travel to the border, and others face extortion from Mexican officials to even access ports of entry.

The presidential order would also force their asylum claims through immigration courts within six months of a migrant entering the U.S. Right now, those claims can take years to process in a bloated court system with an intense backlog of more than 850,000 immigration cases. Migrants would also have to pay a fee for their asylum applications — something that’s allowed through U.S. immigration law but not currently required, according to the Washington Post. The majority of countries lack such fees to asylum seekers, although some charge migrants for protection visas.

The new order could also bar undocumented immigrants who illegally cross the border from getting a provisional work permit. Attorney General William Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan have 90 days to propose formal regulations that would enact Trump’s directive, according to the Washington Post.

After the Justice and Homeland Security departments come up with a plan, it’s unclear how long it’d be for the rules to take effect.

Cover: Honduran asylum seekers enter the U.S. at San Diego's Otay Mesa port of entry, as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. Six Honduran asylum seekers spent a chilly night camped out on a tiny patch of U.S. soil at a San Diego border crossing seeking to have their claims processed. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)