Immigration activists are pushing the Department the government to stop denying visa applications based on immigration status, as they argue that the agency has a duty to help refugees in need, not restrict the rights of those who illegally entered the country.
The White House on Monday rejected a White House petition asking that the Department stop processing asylum claims for those with legal status, arguing that such claims should be processed based on the merits of the claim.
The petition, which has over 4,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning, was submitted by the American Immigration Council, which is an advocacy group that advocates for immigration reform.
It was not immediately clear why the petition was not approved by the White House.
The Obama administration’s stance has angered immigration activists who say that the administration has failed to meet its obligations to assist refugees and immigrants seeking to gain legal status.
They also question why it is taking such a stance when the White and Democratic administrations have pledged to grant asylum and other temporary relief to those who enter the country illegally.
“I think this administration is clearly trying to avoid answering the question of whether or not the government has an obligation to assist those who are seeking asylum,” said Adam Taylor, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We know that it’s not a legal obligation, but it is a moral obligation.”
The White and Trump administrations have both repeatedly expressed the view that they want to address the issue of people who entered illegally and then are brought to the country legally, not those who were brought here illegally,” Taylor added.
In February, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that established a commission to investigate the surge in asylum claims, including those from people who arrived illegally.
The commission is currently reviewing the surge of asylum claims.
In response to the petition, the Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement said it was not aware of any such review.
The Department’s decision to reject the petition is not the first time it has rejected a petition to reconsider its decision to deny asylum.
In April, a group of Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen requesting that the department stop denying asylum to people who have been granted asylum or a temporary protected status under the law.
The group also argued that the U.S. does not have the legal authority to prevent asylum seekers from traveling to the U., as the government does not provide the resources to process asylum claims based on citizenship status.