New Jersey asylum seekers deemed for expedited deportations got a reprieve of sorts from the Biden Administration. Those with a credible fear of emotional or bodily harm if returned to their native countries can now bypass the immigration courts in the early stage of the application process. Instead, their asylum applications will be decided upon by officials from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). By circumventing the traditional route, these cases can steer clear of the 1.7 million applicant backlog of immigration cases. Pending asylum cases account for forty percent of these.
Applications running on the fast track
While many immigration advocates agree that an overhaul in the immigration system is necessary, not all are totally on board with the manner in which this change is being executed. While rushing to adjudicate a claim prior to a deportation, advocates believe that this move translates to a case not receiving the attention it needs for a proper defense. However, a representative of the Department of Homeland Security tried to assuage those concerns stating that due process is inherent in the program.
Not perfect but much better
If Biden’s plan is going to be effective, USCIS staffing levels will need to increase dramatically. As it stands now, USCIS immigration professional positions are woefully understaffed, potentially impacting the ability to expedite cases in a timely manner. Furthermore, the use of border patrol officers to make decisions regarding credible fear interviews has been taken off the table. With the new protocol, asylum seekers will be able to get a determination on their asylum application at the Asylum Merits Interview. When this happens, the asylee will not need to file an I-589.
This new measure is not a perfect fix and issues that need resolution are still outstanding. However, the journey to recovery has taken its first steps.