To help address a years-long backlog on asylum claims, the Biden Administration has formally proposed a rule that would potentially transform the current asylum system. The new asylum rule, if adopted, would substantially speed up the process of applying for asylum, by allowing asylum officers to adjudicate asylum applications without needing to go before an immigration judge. This could take asylum applicants out of the system, allowing asylees to get the protections they need much faster.
How Does the Asylum Process Work Now?
Under current asylum laws, a person applying for asylum must undergo what is known as a “credible fear” interview. In this interview, an asylum officer interviews the applicant to see if they have a credible fear that they will face violence or persecution if they are sent home to their country of origin. If they pass this interview, they can then petition a judge for a formal asylum adjudication, a process that can potentially take years. Only once the judge formally grants asylum can someone obtain legal status within the United States, and thus avail themselves of the benefits of that status.
What is Wrong With This Process?
The asylum process, as it currently exists, has been heavily criticized for being slow and unresponsive. Not only is this frustrating for asylees, who can spend years in legal limbo waiting for their cases to be decided, it also contributes to a massive case backlog that has become a perennial problem for the immigration courts. Meanwhile, asylees waiting for their cases to be decided can have difficulty obtaining work or caring for themselves, due to the issues with their legal status.
What is the New Asylum Rule?
Under the new asylum rule, instead of going to an immigration judge to make their formal asylum application, an asylee would be able to make the application to an asylum officer for a preliminary screening. If accepted by the asylum officer, the asylee would be able to obtain asylum, as well as other legal protections. If they were denied, they would then be able to appeal to an immigration judge, and beyond them to the Board of Immigration appeals.
How Would The New Asylum Rule Help?
By allowing asylum officers to make the initial determination to grant asylum, the new rule would substantially cut down on the number of people filing asylum petitions in the immigration court. This, in turn, would reduce the wait times to get asylum, and substantially reduce the number of cases waiting to be considered. However, the rule is still in its preliminary stages, and may be subject to revision after it has finished its public comment period, which is currently ongoing.
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