According to a report from Buzzfeed, the Trump administration is considering asking asylum seekers to pay a fee as part of their application, a first for the United States.
The new policy is currently just a proposal, but if implemented, it would require applicants already living in the U.S. to pay $50 in order to apply for asylum.
The fee would not apply to those who claim a fear of persecution at ports of entry or those who apply for the protections while in deportation proceedings. There would be no waiver of the fee for those who cannot afford to pay the $50.
The move would affect huge numbers of people. Last year, 100,000 people applied for asylum with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. They are currently processing 300,000 applications total.
Immigration advocates say the change will negatively impact asylum seekers.
“People will say, ‘$50? What’s $50?’ but that’s not the point. This [seeking asylum] is not something people are doing voluntarily. It flies in the face of what asylum and refugee requests are,” said Ur Jaddou, a former chief counsel at USCIS and current director of the advocacy organization DHS Watch. “These are people fleeing something and looking for protection from us … for us to turn around and say ‘that’s nice, we’d like to help but you’d have to pay a fee’ seems contrary to the point.”
Buzzfeed notes that though USCIS charges fees for most visa and immigration applications, they generally do not charge for applications on humanitarian grounds like visas for crime victims or victims of human trafficking.
“The reason we don’t charge for asylum applications is intuitive,” immigration attorney Juan Camilo Mendez Guzman told Buzzfeed. “Even if it keeps one person from being able to apply, is that what we are about? We are going to put a dollar amount on not getting sent back to a place of persecution? It’s crazy.”