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World Education Services Submits Public Comment Opposing Proposed Rule Greatly Limiting Asylum Protections

New York, NY— (July 17, 2020)–On July 14, World Education Services (WES) submitted to the Executive Office for Immigration Review a public comment opposing a proposed asylum regulation that would dramatically curtail the criteria for asylum and put applicants at grave risk of harm, in contravention of long-standing domestic and international conventions.

The rule would prevent people who are fleeing non-state violence, like gang-related and gender-based violence, from seeking asylum. It would provide the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with a far greater remit to designate an asylum case as “frivolous,” which would bar the applicant from receiving any immigration benefit in the U.S. for life.

In the public comment, WES states that the rule will expose countless legitimate asylum seekers to danger, a prospect standing in stark contrast with America’s long-standing obligation under international and domestic law to protect the vulnerable from harm’s way. WES also argues that the rule will cause significant damage to the U.S. economy, citing the $63 billion in taxes that asylum seekers contributed between 2005 and 2014.

Read the full comment below.


July 14, 2020

Lauren Alder Reid
Assistant Director Office of Policy
Executive Office for Immigration Review
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 1800
Falls Church, VA 22041

 

Re: Procedures for Asylum and Withholding of Removal; Credible Fear and Reasonable Fear Review, RIN 1125-AA94, EOIR Docket No. 18-0002, OMB Control Number 1615-0067

Dear Ms. Alder Reid:

World Education Services (WES) submits this public comment in strong opposition to the proposed rule seeking to further erode asylum protection in the U.S. WES is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and professional goals in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1974, WES evaluates international education qualifications and advocates for their recognition. Together with our partners, WES supports newcomers on their paths to personal and professional success.

For 46 years, WES has set a standard of excellence in the field of international mobility with our credential evaluations, research, and ongoing support for the individuals we serve. We have provided credential evaluations to nearly three million people worldwide. Our evaluations are widely recognized by more than 2,500 educational, business, and governmental institutions throughout the U.S. and Canada.

We have witnessed firsthand the significant contributions immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers bring to our communities and to the U.S. economy. Our observations are supported by the findings of the federal government. According to an internal study conducted in 2017 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asylees and refugees contributed $63 billion more in federal, state and local taxes than they received in benefits from 2005 to 2014. The data further demonstrated the per capita fiscal impact of asylees and refugees was $2,205 annually compared to the national average of $1,848 for the same period.[1] It is worth noting that the full report was never published. However, a draft of the study was obtained by media.[2]

Based on our own experience as well as long-standing partnerships with both community-based organizations and state policymakers who support asylum seekers, we believe the proposed rule would expose many asylum seekers to severe danger, since it will drastically reduce the number who are able to seek refuge in the U.S.[3] Moreover, the proposed rule flouts America’s long-standing obligations under domestic and international law to provide refuge and protection to the world’s most vulnerable individuals.

Background

On June 15, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed a regulation that seeks to significantly limit who can seek asylum in the United States.

To meet eligibility requirements for asylum, individuals must, among other things, have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. The proposed rule attempts to dramatically redefine this existing regulatory framework. Its modification of the definition of “persecution,” for example, would restrict the opportunity to seek safety in the U.S. to only the most extreme cases. In addition, the proposed rule would deny numerous asylum seekers their right to a hearing before an immigration judge, unfairly preventing them from having their fair day in court and thus undermining due process and the rule of law.

Moreover, the proposed rule would severely limit protections for people fleeing violence from non-state actors, disregarding current U.S. law. By eliminating gender-based asylum claims, it would close the door to survivors of violence by non-state actors in countries where government agencies routinely ignore such claims.[4]

The proposed measure likewise seeks to prohibit people subject to gang violence from successfully claiming asylum. This includes individuals fleeing gang violence in El Salvador and Honduras—countries the U.S. State Department in late 2017 acknowledged have “some of the world’s highest homicide rates, and weak law enforcement capabilities and inadequate government service, [making] it difficult for their respective governments to ensure the protection of returning citizens.”[5]

The proposed rule further endeavors to impose significant modifications to procedures currently in place. It would prohibit any person who has been in the U.S. for more than a year from seeking asylum and would bar claims from most asylum-seekers who have spent 14 days or more in another country on their way to the U.S. Such arbitrary and punitive penalties would needlessly put vulnerable people at risk.

In addition, under the proposed rule, DHS agents would gain wide authority to designate asylum claims as “frivolous” This is especially troubling considering that such a designation bars an individual for life from seeking any immigration benefit in the U.S.

Given the abbreviated thirty-day public comment period on the proposed rule, we have highlighted only a sampling of the damaging effects the proposed rule would have on crucial asylum protections.

WES urges the DOJ and DHS to preserve access to protection for all asylum seekers and withdraw this proposed rule, which will put vulnerable individuals in harm’s way and which stands in such stark contrast to America’s longstanding obligations under domestic and international law.

Sincerely,

World Education Services

 

[1] Cato Institute, Encouraging Findings of the Trump Administration’s Report on Refugees and Asylees, (Feb. 12, 2019), available at: https://www.cato.org/blog/encouraging-findings-trump-admins-report-refugees-asylees

[2] New York Times, Rejected Report Shows Revenue Brought In by Refugees, (Sept. 19, 2017), available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/19/us/politics/document-Refugee-Report.html

[3] Human Rights Watch, Deported to Danger United States Deportation Policies Expose Salvadorans to Death and Abuse, (Feb. 5, 2020), available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2020/02/05/deported-danger/united-states-deportation-policies-expose-salvadorans-death-and#

[4] The Dialogue Leadership for the Americas, The Toxic Intersection of Violence Against Women in the Northern Triangle and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Immigration Policies, (Sept. 11, 2019), available at: https://www.thedialogue.org/blogs/2019/09/the-toxic-intersection-of-violence-against-women-in-the-northern-triangle-and-the-trump-administrations-anti-immigration-policies/

[5] Buzzfeed News, The State Department Has Been Warning The Trump Administration Its Immigration Policies Could Strengthen MS-13, (July 26, 2018), available at: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/salvadorhernandez/state-department-warned-trump-immigration-ms13