US moves to cut backlog of asylum cases at US-Mexico border

National News

The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed changing how asylum claims are handled, aiming to reduce a huge backlog of cases from the U.S.-Mexico border that has left people waiting years to find out whether they will be allowed to stay in America.

Under the proposal, routine asylum cases no longer would automatically be referred to the overwhelmed immigration court system managed by the Justice Department but would be overseen by asylum officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of Homeland Security Department.

Advocates for the change see it as a way to help those with legitimate claims for protection while allowing officials to more quickly deal with people who do not qualify for asylum or are taking advantage of the long delay to stay in the United States.

“Individuals who are eligible will receive relief more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be expeditiously removed,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

The proposal must go through a public comment period before it can be adopted as a new policy.

The immigration court system has an all-time high backlog of about 1.3 million cases. The Trump administration tried to deal with the issue in part by imposing stricter criteria for asylum and forcing people to seek protection in Mexico and Central America. President Joe Biden’s proposal would streamline the system.

The reason for the change is that more people have been seeking asylum under U.S. law, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

As the system works now, people who present themselves at the border or are apprehended by the Border Patrol and identify themselves as asylum-seekers must pass what is known as a “credible fear” interview. A USCIS asylum officer determines whether they meet the criteria of someone facing persecution in their homeland because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

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USCIS to Continue Implementing New Policy Memorandum on Notices to Appear

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is continuing to implement the June 28, 2018, Policy Memorandum (PM), Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens (PDF, 140 KB).

USCIS may issue NTAs as described below based on denials of I-914/I-914A, Application for T Nonimmigrant Status; I-918/I-918A, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status; I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Violence Against Women Act self-petitions and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions); I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petitions when the beneficiary is present in the US; I-929, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant; and I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (with the underlying form types listed above).

If applicants, beneficiaries, or self-petitioners who are denied are no longer in a period of authorized stay and do not depart the United States, USCIS may issue an NTA. USCIS will continue to send denial letters for these applications and petitions to ensure adequate notice regarding period of authorized stay, checking travel compliance, or validating departure from the United States.