Trump, Covid – And Now Biden – Troubles People Seeking Asylum in the US

  • May 20, 2021
Trump, Covid – And Now Biden – Troubles People Seeking Asylum in the US

BY Rabia Gursoy
JRN 490 Spring 2021

Graphic of the U.S. asylum application
An approval notice sent out to asylum seekers in New York, U.S. Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, is filed for protection under the Convention Against Torture. Individuals are able to file this application if they are physically present in the United States, and you are not a U.S. citizen. Graphic by Rabia Gursoy

Burcu signed her asylum application and sent it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. She had fled from her native country of Turkey in fear of becoming a political prisoner and hoped to start a new life in the U.S. Unfortunately, due to the cuts on funding from immigration services and the coronavirus pandemic, there was a backlog of cases, and Burcu — her name is altered to protect her identity from retribution — was left in uncertainty.

Last March, immigration courts temporarily shut down, increasing wait times for thousands of applicants. Burcu, a 22-year-old university student living in Suffolk County, N.Y. — struggled to make ends meet and move on with her life. Her citizenship status makes steady employment difficult.

“Many of the asylum offices have been temporarily closed and even after President Joe Biden was elected, offices are conducting only a couple of interviews per day,” Burcu said. “I am barely getting by with my savings and loans as I can’t work because of these restrictions.”

In May 2020, Congress had cut $1.2 billion in emergency funding from immigration services – part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – leading to the backlog of cases. The initial wait time for a work permit after applying for asylum in the U.S. was up to 180 days. Applicants, like Burcu, are unsure of the current wait time.

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