- The Trump administration has focused on deterring individuals from attempting to reach the U.S. southern border to claim asylum with severe effects on asylum seekers, but minimal to moderate effects on the flow of migrants seeking protection.
- Case quotas imposed on immigration judges have not reduced the immigration court backlog but have increased the rate of denials by nearly double.
- The use of Asylum Cooperation Agreements and increased repatriation have sent thousands of people back to dangerous places where they are likely to be the victims of violent crime.
- The Flores Settlement Agreement is not an ideal policy for handling children in immigration proceedings and detention, but it cannot be repealed without a replacement that adequately protects vulnerable populations and addresses the changing needs of migrants.
- The continued prevalence and use of the misnomer “catch and release” complicates the safe release of certain migrants into the interior, and abuses expensive detention for individuals that pose no risk to national security or public safety. Alternatives like Family Case Management should be used to save thousands of dollars and alleviate the stress on immigration detention centers.
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTC) —Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — continues to drive families, unaccompanied children, and adults to seek safety in the U.S. At the same time, U.S. policies have attempted to deter asylum seekers, restrict their ability to make an asylum claim, and upend the longstanding legal process at the southern border.
This report is meant to provide a factual, comprehensive overview of the changes that have occurred to the asylum system since the start of the Trump administration. The volume of changes and the increasingly obvious and devastating humanitarian impacts of these changes suggests these changes been the most impactful changes to our asylum system in its history. It also highlights the need for comprehensive reforms to our asylum system.
Even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, changes in asylum policy and law were fast-moving. This report aims to lay out the most -up-to-date information, with recognition that it may be outdated as soon as this report is published. Certainly, the changes in light of the coronavirus pandemic are expediting those changes. For purposes of clarity, we do not discuss COVID-19 impacts in this report.