Immigration Law

Asylum officers, rather than immigration judges, would decide border asylum cases under proposed rule

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Asylum officers would hear and decide asylum claims at the border under a proposed rule announced by the Biden administration Wednesday.

The rule change is designed to speed up consideration of asylum claims and reduce the caseload in immigration courts, according to a press release, coverage by CNN and commentary by the Migration Policy Institute.

Currently, immigration judges hear and decide asylum claims, contributing to a backlog of more than 1 million pending cases.

Under the proposed rule, a person subject to expedited removal who establishes a credible fear of persecution would be referred to an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The asylum officer would have the authority to decide requests for asylum, eligibility for statutory withholding of removal, and eligibility for relief under the Convention Against Torture. If the officer denies asylum, the person could request a de novo administrative review by an immigration judge under a streamlined process. Appeals would go to the Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals.

The proposed rule would not apply to unaccompanied children or to people already living in the United States.

Citizenship and Immigration Services estimates that it will have to hire about 800 new employees to implement the new process, according to the proposal.

The proposed rule follows a Tuesday announcement of a pilot program to help ensure that noncitizens in removal proceedings have access to legal information and other services.

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