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Civil Servants Say New Immigration Protocols Is Making Them Pawns in the Asylum Debate

According to one immigration officer, the first time he interviewed an asylum seeker under new Trump administration protocols, he heard about a Central American migrant’s story of threats from drug cartels during his journey through Mexico to the U.S. The immigration officer believed the man’s tale and knew his life was in legitimate danger.

In an interview with Vox, the officer said, “This was a guy truly afraid he was going to be murdered, and frankly, he might be.” However, under new Trump administration protocols, the officer “wasn’t even allowed to make an argument” that the migrant should be allowed to stay in the U.S. to pursue his asylum case. Instead, the officer felt they had no choice but to sign a form that said the migrant “wasn’t likely to be persecuted in Mexico, and therefore could be safely returned.”

This story is one of many among asylum officers who worry that the integrity of their office is at stake. “We were enlisted to give our blessing through these interviews. It’s our names on the forms, [but] it seems like all of this is lip service.”

For years, immigration officers could use their judgment to make a call on whether a person could stay in the U.S to await for an asylum hearing. But with the new Trump administration rules, officers say their ability to make judgment calls has effectively been shut down.

One officer told Vox, “I’m not adjudicating that case. It’s like someone else sticking their hand inside me, like a glove.”

The primary job of an asylum officer is to make sure those seeking asylum won’t face persecution if the U.S. turns them away. Essentially, their job is to uphold a fundamental principle of refugee law known as “non-refoulement,” which means that “a government must not send a migrant back to a country where they’d be persecuted or imperiled.”

As the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program continues to expand and lawsuits over its legality slowly make their way through courts, asylum officers also grow more uncomfortable with their role in the process. Immigration officers are now worried they are being used to weaken the program for potential asylum seekers because they no longer have the necessary power to allow migrants to stay in the U.S. if they’re in legitimate danger.

Do you need help resolving your asylum case? Call (888) 491-8770 to schedule your consultation with our immigration lawyers at Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. today.
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