Trump administration proposes sweeping asylum restrictions

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President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable discussion with African-American supporters in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

SAN DIEGO – The Trump administration on Wednesday proposed sweeping restrictions on asylum, seeking to align a legal framework with the president's efforts to limit immigration to the United States.

The moves are only the latest in a series of measures that Trump has taken to limit asylum — this time aimed at changing complicated guidelines and procedures governing immigration courts.

The changes, outlined in 150 pages of legalese, aim to redefine how people qualify for asylum and similar forms of protection to prevent them from being persecuted or tortured if sent home.

Judges will be allowed to dismiss cases without court hearings if supporting evidence is determined to be too weak. Rules will define when a claim may be declared “frivolous” and raise the threshold for initial screenings under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

The administration will propose new definitions for some ways people qualify for asylum, specifically “political opinion” and membership in a "particular social group.”

Asylum is for people who face persecution for their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group, a loose category that may include victims of gang or domestic violence. Narrowing those ways to qualify would mean more rejected claims.

The Justice and Homeland Security departments said asylum-seekers who clear initial screenings will have claims heard by an immigration judge in “streamlined proceedings,” according to a brief press release, replacing longstanding rules in immigration law.

Since the U.S. became the world's top destination for asylum-seekers in 2017, the Trump administration has made multiple attempts to make it harder to get, asserting that the system is rife with abuse.