Trump Calls for Charging Fees to Migrants Seeking U.S. Asylum

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump ordered his administration to propose regulations that would impose fees on migrants applying for asylum and speed up the asylum application process.

In a presidential memorandum released on Monday night, Trump said “the security and humanitarian crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border “undermines our nation’s security and sovereignty.”

Congressional Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attacked the proposal on Tuesday. “This despicable attack on desperate families seeking asylum is cruel, unprecedented and fails to address the root causes of migration,” Pelosi said in a statement that was released after she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had met Trump at the White House to discuss infrastructure legislation.

Other Democrats reacted earlier in the day.

“The administration has tried -- and failed -- multiple times to change our asylum laws on its own, only to be blocked by the courts," said House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi in a statement. "To consider levying fees on individuals fleeing dire conditions in their home countries is cruel and completely blind to the reality these individuals are facing.”

Trump has strongly indicated that he would make the issues of illegal immigration and border security a centerpiece of his 2020 election campaign. Apprehensions at the southern border have surged despite his administration’s stricter immigration policies, and earlier this month he pushed out Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other top immigration officials.

“The purpose of this memorandum is to strengthen asylum procedures to safeguard our system against rampant abuse of our asylum process,” Trump wrote.

New Regulations

Trump’s order called for the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to come up with regulations that would impose “a fee for an asylum application not to exceed the costs of adjudicating the application” and “setting a fee for an initial application for employment authorization for the period an asylum claim is pending.”

Other regulations would “ensure that, absent exceptional circumstances, all asylum applications adjudicated in immigration court proceedings receive final administrative adjudication, not including administrative appeal, within 180 days of filing.”

The memorandum did not say what the asylum fees would cost. It asked the attorney general and the acting secretary of Homeland Security to “take all appropriate actions” within 90 days.

The White House had no further comment.

Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, said in prepared remarks that the proposal only “makes matters worse” for efforts to ensure the safety and civil rights of of migrants. Congress needs solutions that provide migrants an alternative to moving north, she said.

“Simply making it harder to claim asylum in the United States is not the answer,” said Roybal-Allard of California.

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