New asylum policy could face court challenge

High court strikes down previous asylum restriction

SAN ANTONIO – Court challenges are expected for this week’s latest asylum policy requiring Central Americans who’ve already applied for asylum to return to Mexico to await their hearings in the United States.

“Ultimately, this is an issue about the rule of law,” said Lance Curtright, an immigration lawyer whose clients include asylum seekers. “Congress has passed laws. We have treaty obligations. We have followed those for decades, and the way that we change those is through Congress.”

He said that’s why he predicts President Donald Trump’s attempts to change existing asylum law will likely face court challenges.

“I don’t think it’s going to last,” Curtright said. “My hope is that it meets a swift demise.”

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an earlier attempt requiring migrants to apply for asylum only at official ports of entry.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the more liberal justices on the high court. They upheld a previous federal court decision that said U.S. law allows immigrants to request asylum regardless of whether they entered the country legally.

However, Felix Chavez, the chief patrol agent in the Laredo sector of U.S. Border Patrol, said too many are making “frivolous claims” of credible fear to gain asylum.

Chavez said current asylum law “does pull, in large part, migrants to make that trek to enter the U.S. illegally.” He also said many fail to appear for their asylum hearings.

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a national, nonpartisan source of information about the courts, law enforcement and more, during Fiscal Year 2018, only 573 people, or 1.4 percent, were denied asylum because they failed to appear for their scheduled hearing.

TRAC also showed that for 98.6 percent of all grant-or-deny decisions, the immigrants were present in court.

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