The Biden administration rolled out a new plan to overhaul the asylum process after former President Donald Trump spent years trying to block asylum-seekers, The New York Times reports.
The biggest change is a new policy that would allow some migrants to have their claims heard and evaluated by asylum officers rather than immigration judges.
The administration said that the immigration court system has been badly backlogged and the new system would process asylum-seekers within three months instead of the current average of five years.
President Joe Biden vowed to “restore humanity” to the asylum system after Trump repeatedly undermined it.
Immigration experts praised the policy as border officials figure out how to manage a record number of border crossings from migrants seeking to apply for asylum.
“It very well could be one of the most significant reforms to the asylum system in a long time, going beyond undoing the Trump administration’s attempts to limit access to asylum, and actually institute meaningful structural reforms,” Austin Kocher, a geographer at Syracuse University who analyzes immigration enforcement data, told the Times.
But the administration will still need to hire hundreds of new asylum officers to handle the influx.
“Through this rule, we are building a more functional and sensible asylum system to ensure that individuals who are eligible will receive protection more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be rapidly removed,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Under the new policy, migrants placed into the “expedited removal” system for deportation will be allowed to claim a “credible fear” of returning to their home country. Rather than enter into the lengthy court process, asylum officers will handle their claims.
But some immigration advocates worry that the expedited removal process is flawed because it allowed border officials rather than immigration judges to issue removal orders for people who do not claim a credible fear.
“While assessing asylum eligibility through initial asylum office interviews is both more humane and efficient, this reform should not be premised on the use of the fundamentally flawed and due-process-deficient expedited removal system,” said Eleanor Acer, the senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First.