SCOTUS rules some rejected asylum-seekers can’t challenge decisions

SCOTUS rules some rejected asylum-seekers can't challenge decisions

The ruling says immigrants denied asylum under streamlined proceedings, cannot contest that decision in court.

The World staff

Amulya Shankar

Player utilities


Listen to the story.

A general view of U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2020. 


Al Drago/Reuters


Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

Trump proposes harsh asylum rules disqualifying many applicants

The World staff

Amanda McGowan

Player utilities


Listen to the story.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents look at migrants who crossed illegally into El Paso, Texas, to turn themselves in to ask for asylum, as seen from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Sept. 18, 2019.


Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters 


On Thursday, the Trump administration issued a proposal that would dramatically reshape the asylum system in the United States.

The proposal includes a number of changes that would make it more difficult for applicants to gain asylum in the US — including changing which applicants would get asylum hearings in the first place. 

Applications based on people fleeing gangs, terrorists, “rogue” government officials or “non-state organizations” would no longer be recognized, meaning that those fleeing persecution from organizations like ISIS would not qualify for protection.

Last July, the Trump administration established another set of rules — requiring migrants fleeing their homelands to apply for asylum in one of the first countries they pass through. 

Related: Pandemic disrupts remittances, leaving immigrants’ families without lifelines 

Currently, asylum claims have essentially been halted by border closures after Donald Trump declared a public health emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Luis Cortes-Romero is an immigration lawyer in Seattle. He spoke with The World’s host Marco Werman about the potential impact of the proposal. 

Marco Werman: How sweeping of a change is this, Luis, to our existing asylum system? And what was your reaction to the proposal?

Luis Cortes-Romero: This is a humongous structural change to the already very limited rights that asylum-seekers have. It does a lot to turn away recent arrival asylum applicants but also does a lot to erode the rights for people who are already in the United States who may want to seek asylum in the future.

Related: Greece’s new asylum law ‘poses continuous traps’ for refugees 

So, what are the details? How exactly would these proposed changes make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum in the US?

It provides a lot of barriers and hurdles to even apply, and it makes it significantly easier and streamlined in order to deny their application. Let me give you some examples to be concrete: One of the things the proposal does is makes it so that anybody who has spent more than 14 days in any other country before coming to the United States … would be banned then from applying for asylum here. So, that applies to a lot of the Central American migrants or people who come from South America, [for] whom oftentimes, it takes them a month to get here.

Related: Migrants struck in Panama rainforest amid coronavirus

Right — I was going to say, if you’re on foot, 14 days — that’s pretty much that, right?

Yes, that’s that. It becomes a nonstarter for a lot of the migrants. Moreso for the recent arrivals, there’s an initial process called a credible fear process, where an officer will just determine kind of at first glance whether you have a credible fear of being persecuted in your country, and if so, then you can go ahead and apply for asylum with an immigration judge and the immigration court. The standard to be able to pass a credible fear interview is now significantly higher. And then even if you make it, the immigration judge now has the authority to completely deny your application without even a hearing if the immigration judge sees that he’s not likely or she’s not likely to grant the application.

Related: How the US immigration system nearly tore this LGBTQ couple apart  

We also need to discuss DACA here — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as minors to remain here to study or work. If the Supreme Court rules against DACA — we’re still waiting for some decision — could these new changes impact DACA recipients who try to seek asylum in the US?

One-hundred percent. If the Supreme Court strikes down DACA, what the heads of the Department of Homeland Security have made clear is that they do plan to place DACA recipients into removal proceedings, the process it takes for someone to be ultimately deported. That typically goes with a hearing before an immigration judge. The one lifeline that DACA recipients could have had to try to save themselves in removal proceedings is now being not only structurally changed but gutted from all its due process rights. So, ultimately, the consequence will be that once DACA recipients are placed in removal proceedings, the ability to fight your case to stay here now is significantly diminished from an already limited basis.

Related: Trump ended DACA. This woman is suing to stop him.

You yourself are a DACA recipient. You were also part of the legal team that argued to the Supreme Court for DACA’s continuation. How are you seeing this raft of restrictions once you look at the sum total?

Certainly, it’s going to be met with a lot of legal challenges because the fundamental notion that the United States has is the ability to be heard and the ability to have a fair proceeding. So, we think there’s going to be a lot of legal challenges, you know, challenging the stripping away of the basic due process rights that asylum-seekers might have, which ultimately may include DACA recipients in the future.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Bolsonaro’s ‘so what’ response to coronavirus deaths is the latest in his spiraling political crisis

Bolsonaro’s ‘so what’ response to coronavirus deaths is the latest in his spiraling political crisis

Michael Fox

Player utilities


Listen to the story.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro reacts while addressing the media during a news conference at the Planalto Palace in Brasília, Brazil, April 24, 2020.


Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters 


On Tuesday night, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro met with reporters in Brasília. The country had surpassed China in the total number of deaths from the coronavirus and had just registered its highest death count in a 24-hour period: 474 people.

In China, 82,858 cases have been confirmed to date, with the official death toll at 4,633. As of Wednesday, Brazil has seen 74,493 infections and 5,158 deaths.

“So what? I’m sorry, what do you want me to do about it?” Bolsonaro said Tuesday.

His statement went viral, as did the response. Brazilians took to social media to attack the already embattled president.

“So what?” in portuguese “E daí ?”

said Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, about more than 5000 deaths by coronavirus. Confirmed deaths in Brazil today exceed China.

— Sheila de Carvalho (@she_carvalho) April 29, 2020


1/ “So what?” Jair Bolsonaro told reporters when asked about the record 474 deaths that day in Brazil. “I’m sorry. What do you want me to do?”
“E daí”

— Leticia Kawano-Dourado (@leticiakawano) April 29, 2020


Brazil: 5k dead. 500 in 24 hours.
70k confirmed cases. Some state health systems already collapsing.
Bolsonaro responds: “So what? I’m sorry. What do you want me to do? I’m a Messiah (Messias is one of his surnames), but I don’t do miracles.”…

— Daniel (@Daniel_IV_) April 28, 2020

Bolsonaro has fought hard against social restrictions in response to the coronavirus, attending rallies and demanding the economy be reopened. Two weeks ago, he forced out his health minister for vocally defending quarantine measures.

Brazilian President Bolsonaro greeted a few dozen supporters protesting quarantines in Brasilia today. He told them that 70% of the country was going to get sick sooner or later so everyone should just get back to work. #coronavirus #covid19 #Brazil

— Michael Fox (@mfox_us) April 18, 2020

This is only the latest as Bolsonaro wades through the worst political crisis of his administration — and the calls from Bolsonaro’s supporters for a return to military rule don’t help. 

Related: As the coronavirus drags on, Mexico’s food prices soar

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered an inquiry into Bolsonaro’s alleged interference with police investigations for political gain. This case against him stems from allegations made by Bolsonaro’s former star Justice Minister Sérgio Moro’s resignation, who stepped down after the president fired federal police chief Maurício Valeixo.

“It’s clear that there was interference in the federal police,” Moro told reporters on Friday when he announced his resignation. “The president told me more than once that he wanted someone in direct contact with him. He wanted to be able to call someone. He wanted to be able to have access to information and intelligence reports.”

It’s widely held that Bolsonaro’s sudden interest in the federal police stems from his hope to block criminal inquiries into his three sons, who are under investigation for a series of crimes, including running a fake news scheme, money laundering and embezzlement.

According to the Supreme Court documents, there are seven accusations against the president, including malfeasance and obstruction of justice. The federal police now have 60 days to question Moro over the charges. If confirmed, Congress could begin a process of impeachment.

So far, 31 requests for impeachment have been submitted to Lower House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, including from members of Bolsonaro’s previous allies. But Maia has so far said impeachment is not the priority amid the coronavirus crisis.

Regardless, the turmoil isn’t likely to encourage the president to change his tone.

“Bolsonarism is a political ideology that depends on enemies. If they don’t exist, the president has to invent them every couple of days. In order to justify his behavior and mobilize his followers, he consistently needs new enemies and traitors.”

Maurício Santoro, Rio de Janeiro State University

“Bolsonarism is a political ideology that depends on enemies. If they don’t exist, the president has to invent them every couple of days,” said Maurício Santoro, a political scientist at the Rio de Janeiro State University. “In order to justify his behavior and mobilize his followers, he consistently needs new enemies and traitors.”

Related: Advocates raise alarm as countries fail to collect racial data of coronavirus patients

This was again overtly clear when Bolsonaro ignored quarantine measures a week and a half ago and participated in a rally in front of the army headquarters.

AI-5 has been trending all day in #Brazil.

AI-5 was the 1968 dictatorship decree, which suspended Congress, habeas corpus, etc.

It’s essentially what Bolsonaro’s supporters called for today @ a rally in Brasilia attended by the

— Michael Fox (@mfox_us) April 20, 2020

A few hundred of his supporters protested social restrictions and called for a return to the dictatorship and the disbanding of Congress and the Supreme Court — claiming that these institutions are actively working against the president.

“Now, the people are in power,” Bolsonaro told the crowd. “More than a right, you have the obligation of fighting for your country.”

Calls demanding military intervention aren’t new in Brazil, but Bolsonaro’s presence at the rally was a disturbing sign.

Bolsonaro is a former military captain who has praised known torturers and the military regime that controlled Brazil from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. He has more military officials in his government than any since the end of the dictatorship — a third of his cabinet members, including his vice president and chief of staff — have military backgrounds.

Related: Bolsonaro’s denial of coronavirus puts the country at risk

“There is much to be concerned about. There is always a type of military threat hanging over the heads of the Brazilian people. So, you live in a state of permanent siege.”

Emiliano Jose, retired journalism professor

“There is much to be concerned about. There is always a type of military threat hanging over the heads of the Brazilian people,” said Emiliano Jose, a retired journalism professor, who was detained and tortured for many years under a dictatorship in Brazil. “So, you live in a state of permanent siege.”

The Brazilian dictatorship was a brutal period. Hundreds of people were disappeared. Thousands were imprisoned. Roughly 30,000 were tortured, according to a 2007 report from a government commission investigating state crimes.

In Brazil, the threat of military rule is never far from sight. On the night Bolsonaro won the October 2018 presidential elections, gun-wielding soldiers in fatigues celebrated by riding through the streets of Niterói on top of a procession of military transport vehicles.

Last October, the president’s son, congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, told a reporter that if leftist Brazilians hit the streets in mass protests, the government would have to sink the country into a dictatorship, suspending habeas corpus and the rule of law.

This rhetoric actually goes over well with Bolsonaro’s supporters, many of whom look back on the military regime with nostalgia for what they call order and progress.

On the heels of military rule, truth commissions revealed the horrors of the past, but no one has ever been held responsible.

Related: Bolsonaro is still downplaying the coronavirus. Many worry about the impact on the most vulnerable.

Federal University of Santa Catarina Historian Cristina Wolff says this failure to confront Brazil’s dark history is key to understanding why many still feel empowered to demand its return.

“I do believe that this issue of never holding anyone accountable for the crimes of the dictatorship makes a big difference. Because in Argentina, where torturers were brought to justice, people could watch the trials on TV. The press covered it. So, the people had to remember.”

Cristina Wolff, Federal University of Santa Catarina

“I do believe that this issue of never holding anyone accountable for the crimes of the dictatorship makes a big difference,” she said. “Because in Argentina, where torturers were brought to justice, people could watch the trials on TV. The press covered it. So, the people had to remember.”

We are not likely to see tanks rolling on the streets in the coming days. But the strength of the military is expected to grow inside Bolsonaro’s government as it descends into deeper turmoil and attempts to battle the growing financial, political and health crises.

That, more than anything else, may be driving Bolsonaro’s rhetoric these days.