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Trump-Era Asylum Restrictions

The asylum and protection system is subject to multiple, overlapping Trump-era restrictions and barriers. This summary compiles the principal restrictions with links to the individual Tracker entries. Some policies remain in place, some have been withdrawn by the Biden administration, and many are subject to litigation. The latest policies are listed first.

Please click on the individual Tracker Entry Link for each policy to see its current status.


Eligibility: Acting AG Rosen issues new Matter of A-B- II decision, further restricting asylum eligibility by providing “additional guidance” on issues related to persecution by non-governmental actors and protected ground being “one central reason” for persecution.

01/14/2021

Eligibility/Access: EOIR and USCIS issue final rule adding public health-related “security” bars to asylum and withholding eligibility.

12/23/2020

Processing: EOIR issues rule increasing immigration court fees, clarifying that the USCIS filing fee of $50 for asylum applications (Form I-589) imposed by an August 3, 2020 final rule applies to asylum applications filed before an immigration judge.

12/18/2020

Eligibility/Access: DHS finalizes Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) with Honduras, providing for transfer of certain asylum seekers to Honduras to seek protection there.

12/18/2020

Border: DHS/DOJ issue interim final rule barring asylum eligibility for individuals who transit through a third country (unless that country denied asylum or the applicant qualifies as a victim of severe trafficking).

12/17/2020

Process: EOIR issues final rule imposing stringent procedural restrictions and requirements for asylum applicants.

12/16/2020

Process: USCIS expands criteria for requiring in-person interviews for asylees and refugees who apply for adjustment of status.

12/15/2020

Eligibility/Access: EOIR and DHS issue final rule (“global asylum rule”) making numerous substantive and procedural changes that significantly restrict asylum, withholding of removal, and CAT protections. Changes include: limiting qualifying persecution; raising the proof standard in credible fear adjudications; considering mandatory bars and internal relocation at the credible fear stage; expanding definition of “frivolous” claim and firm resettlement bar; and channeling asylum seekers who pass CFI into “asylum-and-withholding-only” proceedings.

12/11/2020

Border: DHS issues supplemental policy guidance on Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) regarding counsel, treatment of family units, unaccompanied minors, and potential exemptions.

12/07/2020

Process: EOIR issues new policy memo with heightened asylum filing requirements and restrictions on stopping asylum “clock” and granting of continuances by immigration judges.

12/04/2020

Eligibility/Access: EOIR and USCIS issue final rule expanding criminal bars to asylum and limiting reconsideration of discretionary denials of asylum.

10/21/2020

Eligibility: AG Barr issues Matter of A-C-A-A-, requiring BIA to review asylum grants more critically, including requiring de novo review of all statutory elements and requiring strong showing of nexus between social group and harm.

9/24/2020

COVID-19: CDC issues final rule expanding quarantine authority to prohibit “introduction” of noncitizens (except LPRs) into the U.S.

09/11/2020

  • Type of Action: Rule
  • Legal Challenge: Yes, litigation related to original March 20, 2020 order over unaccompanied minors and final rule effective October 13, 2020, applied to families
  • Tracker Entry Link

Processing: USCIS issues final rule increasing fees, including a new $50 fee for asylum applications.

08/03/2020

Processing: USCIS updates procedures for unaccompanied children’s (UAC) asylum applications, shifting jurisdiction to adversarial immigration court proceedings for any UAC who does not meet the UAC definition on the asylum application filing date.

05/31/2020

COVID-19: CDC order authorizes Border Patrol Title 42 expulsion of all persons arriving by land from Mexico or Canada without valid documents.

03/20/2020

COVID-19: CBP issues memo on Title 42 expulsions at the border, including of unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers.

03/20/2020

Eligibility: DOJ and DHS issue an interim final rule to implement “Asylum Cooperation Agreements” (ACAs), requiring asylum officers to determine whether an individual may be returned to a third country with which the U.S. has signed an ACA. The rule applies to all ACAs in force (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras), except Canada.

11/19/2019

Border: DHS begins implementing the “Humanitarian Asylum Review Program” (HARP) designed to fast-track removal of Mexican nationals seeking asylum by keeping them in CBP rather than ICE custody, effectively blocking access to attorneys for assistance in preparing for credible fear interviews.

11/06/2019

Border: DHS begins implementing the “Prompt Asylum Claim Review” (PACR) program, keeping non-Mexican nationals in CBP rather than ICE custody, effectively blocking access to legal assistance in preparing for credible fear interviews and thereby fast-tracking removal.

10/07/2019

Eligibility: U.S. and Honduras sign “safe” third country agreement which will allow U.S. to return asylum seekers to allegedly access asylum protection.

09/25/2019

  • Type of Action: Agency Directive
  • Legal Challenge: Yes, indirectly via challenge to November 19, 2019 interim final rule implementing the agreement
  • Tracker Entry Link

Eligibility: U.S. and El Salvador sign “safe” third country agreement which will allow U.S. to return asylum seekers to allegedly access asylum protection.

09/20/2019

  • Type of Action: Agency Directive
  • Legal Challenge: Yes, indirectly via challenge to November 19, 2019 interim final rule implementing the agreement
  • Tracker Entry Link

Eligibility/Access: AG Barr issues Matter of L-E-A-, narrowing family-based “particular social group” eligibility for asylum.

07/29/2019

Eligibility: DHS signs “safe” third country agreement with Guatemala which will allow U.S. to return asylum seekers to allegedly access asylum protection.

07/26/2019

  • Type of Action: Agency Directive
  • Legal Challenge: Yes, indirectly via challenge to November 19, 2019 interim final rule
  • Tracker Entry Link

Eligibility/Access: USCIS issues guidance directing asylum officers to determine if applicant attempted to relocate internally to safe areas in their home country to bar asylum.

07/26/2019

Eligibility: Immigration officials reportedly begin to use secretive gang databases to deny asylum claims.

07/08/2019

Border: Border Patrol agents will conduct interviews and make credible fear decisions in place of USCIS asylum officer determining credible fear claims.

05/02/2019

Detention: AG Barr issues Matter of M-S-, holding that an asylum-seeker who establishes credible fear and is placed into removal proceedings is ineligible for an immigration judge bond hearing.

04/16/2019

Border: DHS issues Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), requiring non-Mexican asylum seekers at the southern border to remain in Mexico pending an immigration court hearing.

12/18/2018

Border: POTUS proclamation 9822 bars entry of persons who enter without inspection (EWI) through the southern U.S. border.

11/09/2018

  • Type of Action: Presidential proclamation
  • Legal challenge: Yes as to regulation denying asylum to persons entering in violation of proclamation
  • Tracker Entry Link

Border: DHS/DOJ issue interim final rule barring asylum eligibility for individuals who enter without inspection (EWI) in violation of POTUS proclamation 9822.

11/09/2018

Detention: AG Sessions announces “zero tolerance” policy on Southwest border, dramatically expanding criminal prosecutions for “illegal entry.”

04/06/2018

Eligibility: AG Sessions issues Matter of A-B- to restrict asylum eligibility on particular social group ground for claims based on domestic violence, forced gang recruitment, and claims of non-governmental persecution.

03/07/2018

Processing: AG Sessions vacates Matter of E-F-H-L-, which held that asylum applicants were entitled to a full evidentiary hearing.

03/05/2018

Detention: ICE reportedly ends Family Case Management Program, an alternative to detention (ATD) program.

06/09/2017

Detention: DHS implements EO 13767 on “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” limiting parole of asylum applicants among other measures.

02/20/2017

Border: USCIS revises asylum officer training lesson plans, requiring asylum officers to make a full determination of credible/reasonable fear, rather than finding a “significant possibility” that an immigration judge would later find that an applicant had established such fear.

02/13/2017