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US Biden administration pitches changes to speed up asylum process at the border

05:30  13 september  2021
05:30  13 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration proposed changes Wednesday aimed at speeding up the processing of asylum cases for migrants coming to the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

Under the plan, asylum officers would be allowed to adjudicate requests for U.S. protection rather than the immigration courts, which are experiencing a backlog.

The asylum officer would be able to decide whether people are eligible for asylum. If the person is denied, they could request an administrative review by an immigration judge.

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The Biden administration has grappled for months with record numbers of migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexican border, including more than 200,000 migrant encounters in July. Last month, the Biden administration released a 21-point plan to address the increase. The asylum proposal is part of that plan.

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The proposal would allow the Department of Homeland Security to grant parole to people when “detention is unavailable or impracticable,” before a credible fear determination is made. Such a determination is made if a person has valid fears of persecution if they are returned to their home country.

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Asylum officers would determine whether people were eligible for withholding of removal and Convention Against Torture protections for those who don't qualify for asylum but receive a credible fear determination.

Withholding of removal is temporary protection that allows people who do not qualify for asylum to not be returned to their home country due to fears of persecution but allows them to be moved to a third country where their life might not be threatened. Convention Against Torture is part of a human rights treaty that does not allow migrants to be returned to their homes if they face torture.

The proposed rule would apply only to those placed into the expedited removal process.

The text of the rule will officially publish Friday, and the public will then have to comment on the proposed changes. It's unclear when the new policy will be officially implemented.

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  Bypassing immigration judges will crater the southern border It is an unimaginable invitation to enter the United States illegally. The proposal comes with additional eyebrow raisers. For example, although border crossers are required to be detained through their initial credible fear hearings, the proposed rule would skirt that requirement by granting "parole" into the U.S. where detention is "impracticable." The rule acknowledges that many people won't show up to their credible fear hearing. As another example, the rule treats the credible fear hearing as an application for work authorization, despite the fact that this will transfer jobs away from U.S. workers.

A DHS official said it is aiming to hire approximately 2,000 people to fill positions as a result of the proposed change –1,000 asylum officers and 1,000 support staff.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that the "proposed changes will significantly improve DHS’s and DOJ’s ability to more promptly and efficiently consider the asylum claims of individuals encountered at or near the border, while ensuring fundamental fairness.

“Individuals who are eligible will receive relief more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be expeditiously removed," Mayorkas said. "We are building an immigration system that is designed to ensure due process, respect human dignity, and promote equity.”

Some immigration advocates cautiously welcomed the new policy.

“While we welcome efforts to provide initial asylum assessments in a non-adversarial setting, that reform should not be premised on use of the fundamentally flawed expedited removal system,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First, in a statement.

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Acer warned the rule could be used to rush asylum seekers through the process without proper representation, or enough time to gather evidence or prepare for their cases, leading to asylum cases being disqualified.

"The proposal’s restriction on access to immigration court hearings, leaving asylum seekers with a ‘review’ of an asylum officer’s negative decision, could limit their ability to present crucial evidence," Acer said.

Doris Meissner, director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, wrote in a statement that the policy could be a game changer as it shifts "asylum decisions in border cases from the immigration courts, where huge backlogs can mean waits of several years for a decision, to asylum officers who are specially trained to decide protection claims."

"While this appears to be a technical processing change, at base the plan would help preserve asylum as a bedrock element of the U.S. immigration system while also recognizing that a credible immigration system requires both deterring unlawful entry and ensuring the right to seek humanitarian protection," Meissner said.

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden administration pitches changes to speed up asylum process at the border

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This is interesting!