The Slatest

Trump Administration to Allow for Extended Detention of Certain Asylum Seekers as Deterrent to Others Not to Come

Central American migrant children en route to the U.S. border rest near Huehuetan, Chiapas state, Mexico, on April 15, 2019.
Central American migrant children en route to the U.S. border rest near Huehuetan, Chiapas state, Mexico, on April 15, 2019. PEP COMPANYS/Getty Images

Attorney General William Barr issued an order Tuesday evening that will stop certain credible asylum seekers from being able to post bail while they await their asylum hearings, a process that can take months and sometimes years. The practical effect of the order directed at immigration judges is that it could keep thousands of asylum seekers detained for extended periods while they await a court ruling on their status. The move is the latest explicit effort by the Trump administration to discourage legal asylum seekers from attempting to come to the country by erecting administrative roadblocks and potentially jail time.

“For more than a decade, migrants who are deemed to have a ‘credible fear’ of persecution in their home countries have been allowed to request a bond hearing so they can be released on bail while they wait for their asylum cases to be heard, sometimes months or years later,” the New York Times notes. This is an approach that has been affirmed by the judicial system as recently as this month when a federal judge in Washington State affirmed that credible asylum seekers must have the ability to seek bail within seven days of requesting it.

The attorney general, however, oversees the immigration courts and Barr is restricting the class of asylum seekers that can rely on that week-long time frame. The order gives the Department of Homeland Security wide discretion over whether migrants who declared themselves as asylum seekers after entering the country illegally will be released on bail or not. The Trump administration, unsurprisingly, has dramatically curtailed the release of migrants awaiting immigration proceedings. The order restricting migrants’ access to parole does not apply to potential asylum seekers that declare themselves at a port of entry along the border.

Given the difficulties that already overworked government agencies have had imposing stiffer immigration regulations, it’s doubtful the administration has the capacity to house thousands more migrants for extended periods of time. Barr, on Tuesday, acknowledged as much saying he will defer the implementation of the new rules. “I will delay the effective date of this decision for 90 days so that D.H.S. may conduct the necessary operational planning for additional detention and parole decisions,” Barr wrote in the 11-page order.