Trump Administration Plans to Detain Asylum Seekers Indefinitely

Trump Administration Plans to Detain Asylum Seekers Indefinitely

For those facing unthinkable violence and threats of persecution, asylum provides an escape. It promises safety, peace, and prosperity away from the grasp of fear. Yet within the last year, the Trump administration has continually proven itself an enemy of asylum seekers. While potential asylees, including many women and children, hope for protection and peace, the United States has become less and less a haven.

Now, current attorney general William Barr has revoked a protection available to certain asylum seekers – the possibility of seeking bond. This prevents indefinite detention for thousands while they wait for their final decisions. Now, defensive asylum seekers will not have the ability to walk free, and will instead be jailed for unknown amounts of time. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has quickly stripped protections for some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

In today’s article, we review the recent news surrounding William Barr’s actions, including a discussion about who exactly will no longer be eligible for bail. We also review previous actions taken by the Trump administration to both limit and prevent the granting of asylum.

The Trump Administration & Asylum

In only a few short months, the situation for migrants at the U.S. southern border has become quite tenuous. Beginning in October 2018, Trump’s actions became increasingly aggressive as he attempted to block a large migrant caravan from seeking aid and asylum from the United States. The president even attempted, unsuccessfully, to limit who could seek asylum in the first place. While Trump’s actions have been largely blocked by U.S. courts, each day vulnerable asylum seekers suffer at the U.S. border and within custody.

In 2019, the president even threatened to close the U.S.-Mexico border. The repercussions of such a shutdown are inconceivable, and would shatter lives and stagnate the U.S. economy. Certain foods, including many popular produce items like avocados, would become increasingly scarce. U.S. and Mexican border towns would suffer as their symbiotic relationships were severed. Luckily, it appears the president has backed away from a full or partial closure – at least for now. Yet, he has issued an “ultimatum” to Mexico, threatening a closure in one year’s time if the country does nothing to curtail migrants.

It has become increasingly clear that migrants and asylees at the U.S. southern border need heightened protections. Yet, they are facing a justice system that seems determined to strip them of nearly every right. Luckily, U.S. courts have continued to check the executive branch, stopping or reversing nearly every order imposed at the border. Yet, this limit on Trump’s power can only have so much influence without the support of the Department of Justice (DOJ). This is especially true because immigration courts themselves, including judges, are actually under DOJ control. In this case, it creates an unsettling conflict of interest.


On April 16, Attorney General William Barr issued an order that denies certain defensive asylum seekers their right to bond. Barr’s order strikes down a 2005 ruling that stated that potential asylees are eligible for bond if they can prove credible fear of harm upon return to their home country. The attorney general stated that only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the right to release any asylum seekers. Immigration courts function under the control of the DOJ, thus removing judges’ ability to grant bail when appropriate. The order will take effect in 90 days.

In order to support his actions, the Attorney General cited both the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Supreme Court. The latter ruled in 2018 that the law placed no finite limits on detainment for migrants and asylum seekers.


Immediate dissent has already arisen against Barr’s actions. An immigration judge has spoken out, stating that the attorney general’s actions are “highly problematic.” Because immigration courts are under the control of the attorney general, they can easily fall victim to political whims and biases.

The dissenting judge, Ashley Tabaddor, continued: “It is allowing the chief prosecutor of the United States to step in, in the middle of judicial proceedings and rewrite the law.”

It is likely that Barr’s actions will be challenged in courts across America, as well. Davis & Associates is closely monitoring the situation and will provide any salient updates as they become available.

Who does Barr’s ruling affect?

Barr’s order only affects those asylum seekers who crossed into America between border crossings and then, upon apprehension or surrender to border patrol, sought asylum. These asylum seekers must also pass credible fear screenings, which determine whether or not a potential asylee’s fears are more likely than not to occur. After passing the credible fear screening, defensive asylum proceedings begin.

Those asylum seekers who surrender themselves at U.S. ports of entry do not have a right to bond.

Seeking Asylum?

Without a doubt, this latest action by the Trump administration is unsettling. Today, even more so than yesterday, asylum seekers need to protect themselves. If you are facing asylum proceedings, or any type of legal issue, contact an expert immigration attorney. Not only will an immigration attorney defend your rights, they also provide greater hope for success. Remember, only work with attorneys certified by your state’s bar association. Never work with “notarios” or “visa consultants,” who do not possess the required education and knowledge to provide legal guidance.

Asylum seekers deserve to live in a world without fear. Davis & Associates passionately fights for immigrants’ rights every day. Our expert legal team is compassionate, accessible, and highly knowledgeable about asylum law. For your convenience, initial consultations are always free. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!