WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will begin allowing some migrants to seek asylum upon arrival at the southwest border later this month, even as it continues to use a pandemic-era public health rule to turn back quickly migrants without the option to look for it.
The new process, intended to make a decision in months instead of years it currently takes through the immigration court system, will apply to “a few hundred” migrants per month, officials said. administration.
The immediate effect of the policy is likely to be minimal, overshadowed by vast backlogs in the immigration system and a recent surge of migrants at the border, and it falls far short of a broad restoration of access to asylum, which has been restricted by the Trump administration and the pandemic. But if the Biden administration goes ahead with its plan to roll out the policy in phases, it could represent the vanguard of what some experts say is the most sweeping change to the asylum process in a quarter century.
“Those eligible for asylum will receive protection faster, and those who are ineligible will be expeditiously deported rather than staying in the United States for years while their cases are pending,” said Alejandro N. Mayorkas. , Secretary of Homeland Security, in a statement. statement Thursday. “We deliver justice quickly, while ensuring due process.”
The new plan, which has been the subject of months of formal review and public comment, is President Biden’s first major policy to improve the asylum system, which he has pledged to restore after his four years of decline under the Trump administration.
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The modest rollout of the plan comes during a period of record migrant crossings along the southwestern border, as people from countries around the world have fled poverty and violence over the past year, and in particular over the past month. Some of these migrants were allowed to enter the country to face removal proceedings under the existing process, but others were quickly deported under a public health rule known as title 42, which has been in place since the start of the pandemic.
Of the more than 700,000 people released in the United States since Mr Biden took office, most will add to the backlog of more than 1.7 million cases in the immigration court system. Apart from the few hundred asylum applications per month that will use the new application process, the rest will continue to follow the traditional process in immigration courts.
Migrants selected to be routed using the new process will come from a very specific subset: migrants who are placed in a special category that gives immigration officials the power to deport people without a hearing, known as expedited removal; are being held in one of two immigration detention centers in Texas; and are considering relocating to Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark or San Francisco, the administration said.
As part of the expedited removal process, border officials ask migrants if they are afraid to return to their own country. Those who say they are programmed for what is called a credible fear interview with an asylum officer.
Under the traditional system, migrants who pass these interviews join many others who wait in the United States, often for years, to appear before an immigration judge and formally seek asylum. But under the new plan, migrants who pass the initial screening will then present their case to an asylum officer.
Immigration advocates have criticized the new policy for not providing enough due process for migrants to file an asylum claim and appeal denials. And conservatives have argued that asylum decisions should be made by immigration judges, not asylum officers. Texas filed a lawsuit against the new plan, but it won’t affect the rollout on Tuesday.
The Department of Homeland Security did not specify how many recent migrants met the specific criteria for eligible persons during the initial deployment. In April, 6,383 migrants were placed in an accelerated removal procedure, according to federal data. This represents only 2% of the total border arrests that month.
The administration expected to stop using the public health rule this week and return to normal immigration processes in place before the pandemic, which would have dramatically increased the number of people placed in expedited deportation proceedings. and would have given them access to credible fear screenings. But a recent court order forced the administration to keep the public health rule in place. The rule, intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, gives border officials the power to deport undocumented migrants without giving them the chance to seek asylum.
Another of the limited options for seeking asylum at the southwest border is to use a Trump-era program that allows some migrants to seek asylum while waiting in Mexico for a decision. The Biden administration tried to end the program, calling it inhumane, but a court ordered it reinstated.