Donald Trump's Plan to Charge Asylum Seekers at Border Slammed as 'Truly Sickening'

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes the Baylor women’s NCAA championship basketball team in the Oval Office at the White House April 29, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Trump has come under fire over plans to charge a fee to asylum seekers at the border. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

A new proposal from President Donald Trump to fine asylum seekers at the border to process their asylum claims has been condemned as a "truly sickening" plot that will punish families fleeing violence and turmoil.

Trump laid out his plans to enhance border security and strengthen immigration laws in the U.S. in a memo directed to Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on Monday night.

"Our immigration and asylum system is in crisis as a consequence of the mass migration of aliens across our southern border," the president wrote in his memo. "In Proclamation 9844 of February 15, 2019, I declared a national emergency to address the security and humanitarian crisis at that border. That emergency continues to grow increasingly severe."

In response to a recent surge in arrivals of asylum seekers, including many families, at the border, the president laid out a directive that would require asylum seekers to pay an application fee to enter the U.S., as well as a fee for anyone seeking a work permit.

The directive calls on officials to "propose regulations setting a fee for an asylum application not to exceed the costs of adjudicating the application…and other applicable statutes, and setting a fee for an initial application for employment authorization for the period an asylum claim is pending."

Hitting back at Trump's latest hardline immigration policy proposal, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro called the plan "truly sickening" on Twitter, noting that many migrant families making the journey to the U.S. are "fleeing violence and turmoil to seek refuge at our borders and Donald Trump wants to charge them a fee to gain asylum."

Families are fleeing violence and turmoil to seek refuge at our borders and Donald Trump wants to charge them a fee to gain asylum. Truly sickening.

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) April 30, 2019

Castro was not alone in condemning the policy proposal, with immigration advocacy groups asserting that the plan would only succeed in "persecuting the most vulnerable."

"Trump's party, the GOP, is against taxes unless waged against poor people fleeing for their lives," immigration advocacy and legal support group the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) said in a statement on Twitter.

Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director of the ‎American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, also struck out at the plan, rejecting Trump's suggestion that the bid to impose filing fees on asylum applications is about "covering costs."

"These proposed fees are intended to be a deterrent," he said.

"It is common knowledge that many asylum seekers can't afford to pay fees—many can't afford the basic necessities needed to live."