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The Biden administration is planning more changes to quicken asylum processing for new migrants

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LA Post: The Biden administration is planning more changes to quicken asylum processing for new migrants
May 15, 2024
SEUNG MIN KIM and COLLEEN LONG - AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is preparing more changes to the nation’s asylum system meant to speed up processing and potential removal of migrants who continue to arrive at the southern border, an interim step as President Joe Biden continues to mull a broader executive order to crack down on border crossings that may come later this year.

The change under consideration would allow certain migrants who are arriving at the border now to be processed first through the asylum system rather than going to the back of the line, according to four people familiar with the proposal. The people were granted anonymity to speak about an administration policy before it is made final.

The announcement, expected to come from the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, could come as early as Thursday, although the people cautioned that it could be delayed. The broader goal of the administration with this change is to process recent arrivals swiftly, within six months, rather than the numerous years it would take under the current backlog in the nation’s asylum system.

The new rules would apply to people who cross between ports of entry and turn themselves in to immigration authorities.

The Biden administration is taking increasingly restrictive measures to dissuade people from coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. Right now, when a migrant arrives, particularly a family, they are almost always released into the country where they wait out their asylum court dates in a process that takes years. By quickly processing migrants who have just arrived, it could stop others from trying to make the trip.

A record 3 million cases right now are clogging the nation’s immigration court. The average caseload for a judge is 5,000 and these changes won’t help diminish their workload. There are roughly 600 judges.

The administration has tried for years to move more new arrivals to the front of the line for asylum decisions, hoping to deport those whose claims are denied within months instead of years. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations also tried to accelerate the process, going back to 2014. In 2022, the Biden administration introduced a plan to have asylum officers, not immigration judges, decide a limited number of family claims in nine cities.

Michael Knowles, spokesman for the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, a union that represents asylum officers, said in a February interview that the 2022 plan was “a very important program that got very little support.”

Last year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began an effort in 45 cities to speed up initial asylum screenings for families and deport those who fail within a month. ICE has not released data on how many families have gone through the expedited screenings and how many have been deported.

A bipartisan border agreement drafted by three senators and endorsed by Biden earlier this year offered funding for 100 new immigration judges and aides. But that legislation never advanced after Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, urged fellow Republicans to kill the deal.

Meanwhile, advocates for immigrants have generally expressed concern about changes that would expedite already-fraught proceedings for migrants, who arrive at the U.S. border after what is often a harrowing journey north.

___

Associated Press Writer Elliot Spagat contributed to this report from San Diego.

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