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United States law enshrines the protections of the international Refugee Convention, drafted in the wake of the horrors of World War II. The law provides that any person “physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States … irrespective of such [person’s] status, may apply for asylum...”

For asylum seekers, making it to the United States often means they have found safety from persecution, torture, and sometimes death. But upon their arrival, they face a new odyssey of navigating complex U.S. immigration laws and an increasingly restrictive environment that bars asylum seekers from winning protection. 

Under the Trump administration, these challenges grew exponentially. Since 2017, the federal government unleashed relentless attacks on the U.S. asylum system. Internal memos revealed these efforts to be concerted, organized, and implemented toward the goal of ending asylum in the United States.

Protecting the right to asylum requires dismantling Trump’s systemic attacks, as well as the pre-existing barriers that the prior administration built upon, and building new systems centered around justice and compassion. NIJC’s recommendations to uphold the U.S. obligation to provide refuge for families, adults, and children seeking freedom from persecution.

  • Eliminate summary removal procedures that lack due process and prevent asylum seekers from pursuing existing protections. All asylum seekers should have the opportunity to present their case to an immigration judge, including those who have previously been deported.
  • End immigration detention including the detention of asylum seekers. Arriving asylum seekers should be released on parole or recognizance and supported in the community with their loved ones while their cases proceed. 
  • Repeal the one-year filing deadline to ensure that refugees are not denied protection based on a technicality. The deadline is unnecessary, arbitrary, and a violation of the U.S. government’s commitments to refugees’ fundamental human rights.
  • Decriminalize the act of migration by repealing sections 1325 and 1326 of Chapter 8 of the U.S. Code, which impose criminal penalties for unauthorized entry and reentry and are often wielded against asylum seekers, and ensuring that involvement in the criminal legal system does not preclude access to asylum. 
  • Appoint counsel to everyone in immigration proceedings. Access to counsel is critical to help people, especially children, individuals in detention, and vulnerable populations, navigate the complex immigration system.

NIJC's timeline highlighting the major events comprising the Trump administration’s assault on asylum seekers has moved.