Does Character Matter in Asylum?

Press Releases

January 27, 2021

IRLI defends new bars to eligibility

WASHINGTON—Yesterday the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in defense of a Trump administration rule making some classes of aliens ineligible for asylum in this country.

The asylum statute already bars persons who have committed certain very serious crimes from receiving asylum. The statute also provides that federal agencies can create, by regulation, other categories of ineligibility. In its regulation, the Trump administration did just that; for example, it made aliens ineligible for asylum if they had been convicted of crimes showing disregard for the societal values of the United States. Nevertheless, the district court hearing the case enjoined that regulation as “inconsistent” with the asylum statute.

In its brief on appeal, IRLI shows that there is no logical inconsistency between the statute, which itself authorizes agencies to make additional rules, and these additional rules. Indeed, the new rules further the congressional purpose, reflected in the statutory bar on those who have committed particularly serious crimes, of protecting Americans. IRLI makes the crucial point that asylum provides major benefits: asylees receive work authorization and become eligible for green cards and American citizenship. For this reason, it is appropriate to screen out those who have been convicted of crimes showing disregard for America’s societal values.

“Character most definitely matters when it comes to asylees,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “They are our future fellow-citizens. The district court had no basis in the law for blocking the additional, commonsense vetting of asylum applicants provided for in this rule. We hope the Ninth Circuit upholds the rule both as fully consistent with the statute and as furthering the intent of Congress.”

The case is Pangea Legal Services v. DHS, No. 20-17490 (Ninth Circuit).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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