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The Trump Administration is attacking asylum seekers—both in words and in deeds. In Attorney General Sessions’s speech against “dirty immigration lawyers,” for whom he blames for the rampant “fraud and abuse” in the system, the Attorney General highlighted policy initiatives undertaken by the Trump Administration to deter, delay, and deny asylum applicants who are seeking protections. This Article identifies the Trump Administration’s new policies and practices and criticizes those that impose irrational or unnecessary burdens on asylum seekers.

More salient, however, is that the Trump Administration’s attack on asylum is not a break from past practices. To the contrary, for over 20 years, the preceding three administrations have imposed significant burdens on asylum seekers, because they either caved to irrational political pressures or lacked the political will to protect those who need more.

Change is needed and concrete policy reforms exist. But the precondition to reform is the recognition that many newly arriving immigrants who are poor and persecuted are ironically the unique guardians of the American values that our country holds dear. Those who gave up everything for freedom, anti-corruption principles, or a refusal to abet a repressive regime hold and transmit the core democratic principles our country needs to thrive. Through policy initiatives that have been weaponizing misery, we have been deterring and denying legitimate asylum claims. We continue to do so at the detriment of our own country’s future.


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6 Sep 2022
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  • Subject
    • Human Rights Law

    • Immigration Law

    • Politics

  • Journal title
    • Lewis & Clark Law Review

  • Volume
    • 22

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Pagination
    • 541-576

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022