In another move to more strictly enforce immigration laws, the Trump administration changed the policies that asylum officers should follow in handling asylum seekers. In contrast to the executive orders that Trump has paraded in front of the media, this abrupt change in policy was buried in written guidance provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The materials are meant to instruct asylum officers how to properly handle asylum claims. All changes outlined in the written guidance became effective February 27, 2017. The change in guidance primarily concerns the legal concept of “credible fear”, which is an essential element of all asylum claims. When an immigrant enters the U.S. and claims that he or she is entitled to asylum due to a credible fear of persecution or torture in his or her home country, an asylum officer initially interviews the immigrant. It is that officer who determines whether the immigrant has a credible fear of persecution or torture sufficient to continue through the asylum process in immigration court. The changes in guidance for asylum officers in assessing credible fear could have wide implications for the number of credible fear asylum claims that the immigration judge ultimately grants, which stood at almost 80% in federal fiscal year 2016. For instance, the previous guidance instructed asylum officers to make a finding of credible fear if they have reasonable doubt about a person’s credibility and move the asylum case forward. The new guidance removes this instruction altogether. Likewise, the previous version instructed officers to take into account how cultural factors might affect an immigrant’s demeanor, candor, and responsiveness during asylum interviews. The new version, however, removes this guidance, which could result in an immigrant’s understandable fear, stress, and trauma causing an asylum officer to doubt his or her credibility. Supporters of the move see it as another step by Trump to cut off incentives for asylum seekers to enter the U.S. Immigration advocates, however, say that the changes may block the ability of individuals who are truly fleeing violence and persecution to obtain necessary protections or even have their asylum claims heard in court. This could make the situation particularly difficult for more vulnerable immigrants, such as women and children. Taken in conjunction with the Trump administration’s other actions designed to enforce immigration laws, the move has significant implications for immigration into the U.S. – without the necessity of changing any laws. The step is just one more move by the Trump administration to quell immigration and deport immigrants who are present in the country with no legal status. Individuals who believe that they qualify for asylum or have another valid deportation defense need an experienced California immigration attorney who can assist them with this often complex process. At Landerholm Immigration, A.P.C., we know how to stand up for the rights of those who are legally entitled to remain in the U.S. Call us today at (510) 756-4468 and schedule an appointment with one of our deportation defense lawyers, and learn how we can assist you.