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Directions To Officials To Toughen Asylum Rules, U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. law already directs the Justice Department to finish asylum cases within six months, but with a backlog of more than 800,000 cases, asylum claims often take years to come to a conclusion.

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Families hoping to seek asylum in the United States wait on the bridge connecting Reynosa, Mexico, to Hidalgo, Texas, March 15, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump directed officials to toughen rules for asylum seekers on Monday, including by introducing a fee for their applications and barring those who entered the country illegally from working until their claims are approved.

The moves are the latest effort by the Trump administration to stem a growing number of migrants crossing the U.S. southern border, many of whom then seek asylum in the United States. Many of the changes would be dramatic shifts in how asylum seekers are treated, but would also require time-intensive regulatory procedures before they go into effect, which will likely take months.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly blamed U.S. laws protecting asylum seekers for encouraging fraudulent or non-deserving claims.

But immigrant advocates say the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict asylum protections harms people legitimately seeking refuge from violence and persecution.

On Monday, Trump signed a presidential memorandum that directed the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security to, within 90 days, introduce a slew of new regulations tightening asylum policy, including one setting a fee for asylum applications, which are currently free to file.

FILE - President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside the White House, April 27, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks to the media outside the White House, April 27, 2019. VOA

Even a small fee could be insurmountable for many asylum seekers, said Victoria Neilson, a former official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government agency that accepts asylum applications.

“The majority of people coming to the United States seeking asylum are coming with little more than the shirts on their back,” she said.

Another regulation Trump ordered his officials to prepare would ensure asylum claims are adjudicated in immigration court within six months.

U.S. law already directs the Justice Department to finish asylum cases within six months, but with a backlog of more than 800,000 cases, asylum claims often take years to come to a conclusion.

“The provision to process cases in 180 days has been on the books for over two decades,” said Ashley Tabaddor, president of the immigration judges’ union. “The problem is that we have never been given adequate resources to adjudicate those claims in a timely fashion.”

Asylum cases are often complex and involve trauma, and judges should have discretion to provide more time depending on the case, Tabaddor said.

Trump also ordered officials to introduce regulations that would disqualify asylum seekers who entered the country illegally from obtaining work permits while their claims are pending. Currently, asylum seekers who enter both legally and illegally are allowed to work while their claims wind through the courts.

Migrants from Central America wait inside an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, March 29, 2019.
Migrants from Central America wait inside an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, March 29, 2019. VOA

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials encountered some 100,000 people at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the highest level in more than a decade, and one which officials say is pushing resources to the breaking point.

Under U.S. law, asylum seekers that have a credible fear of return can seek review in immigration courts. The large majority of asylum seekers eventually lose their cases but can live in and work in the United States for the months or years it takes to process their claims.

Monday’s memorandum is just Trump’s latest attempt to curb asylum protections. Other policy moves have been challenged in federal court. (VOA)

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U.S. Pentagon Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than Portugal, Study Finds

The Pentagon, which oversees the U.S. military, released about 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide

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U.S., Pentagon, Greenhouse Gases
FILE - The Pentagon building is seen in Washington. VOA

The United States creates more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions through its defense operations alone than industrialized countries such as Sweden and Portugal, researchers said Wednesday.

The Pentagon, which oversees the U.S. military, released about 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in 2017, according to the first study to compile such comprehensive data, published by Brown University.

The Pentagon’s emissions were “in any one year … greater than many smaller countries’ greenhouse gas emissions,” the study said.

If it were a country, its emissions would make it the world’s 55th-largest contributor, said Neta Crawford, the study’s author and a political scientist at Boston University.

U.S., Pentagon, Greenhouse Gases
FILE – Air pollution hangs over the skyline as the sun rises over Beijing’s central business district, Jan. 14, 2013. VOA

“There is a lot of room here to reduce emissions,” Crawford said.

Request for comments to the Pentagon went unanswered.

Troop movements

Using and moving troops and weapons accounted for about 70% of its energy consumption, mostly due to the burning of jet and diesel fuel, Crawford said.

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It dwarfed yearly emissions by Sweden, which the international research project Global Carbon Atlas ranks 65th worldwide for its of CO2 emissions.

Pentagon emissions were higher than those of Portugal, ranked 57th by the Global Carbon Atlas, said Crawford.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main gas responsible for climate change, followed by the United States.

The Pentagon called climate change “a national security issue” in a January report to Congress and has launched multiple initiatives to prepare for its impact.

U.S., Pentagon, Greenhouse Gases
The United States creates more planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Pixabay

Global temperatures are on course for an increase of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5.4-9.0 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, far overshooting a global target of limiting the increase to 2 C or less, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said in November.

Four degrees Celsius of warming would increase more than five times the influence of climate on conflict, according to a study published in Nature magazine on Wednesday.

Improvements

Crawford said the Pentagon had reduced its fuel consumption significantly since 2009, including by making its vehicles more efficient and moving to cleaner sources of energy at bases.

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It could reduce them further by cutting fuel-heavy missions to the Persian Gulf to protect access to oil, which were no longer a top priority as renewable energy gained ground, she said.

“Many missions could actually be rethought, and it would make the world safer,” she said. (VOA)