“Mr. President, we know what’s in your heart. Let’s reject the extremist messaging vilifying immigra

15 May 2024

The Biden administration plans to propose a rule allowing officers, rather than judges, to determine asylum eligibility for migrants with criminal records or those deemed ineligible, raising concerns about arbitrary and unjust decisions. This change could lead to wrongful deportations as initial screenings might not be fair, especially for vulnerable migrants without legal help. While part of broader border control actions, the proposal faces opposition from Democrats and immigrant advocates who urge Biden to also support long-term undocumented residents and uphold humane asylum processes.

 The Biden administration plans to propose a new rule Thursday aimed at speeding up the asylum claims process for some migrants. This could be a potential prelude to broader actions from President Joe Biden later this year that would impose a bigger crackdown at the border.
It’s meant to affect migrants with criminal records or those who would otherwise be eventually deemed ineligible for asylum in the United States.

The proposal, which the Department of Homeland Security plans to announce on Thursday, was confirmed by four people familiar with its contents who were granted anonymity to detail plans not yet public.

Under current law, a migrant who arrives at the border and undergoes an initial screening for “credible fear” — one criterion for asylum — is allowed to continue with the process even if they have a criminal background or would pose a security risk. A judge would later determine whether that migrant would be eligible for asylum.

According to the people, the change would effectively let an officer make that determination at the initial screening stage rather than waiting for a judge. The people also said the proposal affects a relatively small universe of migrants and those who would not qualify for asylum protections anyway.

But despite those caveats, immigration advocates have previously raised questions about any changes to the credible fear process, saying that migrants are often doing these interviews immediately after surviving life-threatening perilous trips to get to the U.S.
Because of this, initial interviews are designed to have a relatively lower bar so that migrants aren’t wrongfully deported, they say. They’ve questioned how much legal help migrants in custody can get to prepare them for this key first step toward an asylum claim.

It will likely be months before Thursday’s proposal, first reported by Politico, goes into effect. Biden continues to mull larger executive action on the border, the timing of which largely depends on whether the number of illegal border crossings increases—they have been steadily decreasing since December.

The proposed rule also comes amid pressure from fellow Democrats and immigrant rights advocates to support immigrants already in the United States.

Janet Murguía, the president of UnidosUS, a civil rights advocacy organization, said she met with Biden last week at the White House with other Latino leaders to push for relief for immigrants without legal status who have been in the United States for years.
“I believe President Biden is open to this notion that he can do something. He asked for more specifics,” Murguía said. “We’re going to make the case in the White House. We will make the case in every community here in the Capitol, across the country.”

At a news conference Wednesday, Latino and progressive congressional Democrats expressed frustration at the idea that the White House would clamp down on the border without also assisting immigrants who crossed the border illegally as children.

“Mr. President, we know what’s in your heart. Let’s reject the extremist messaging vilifying immigrants. Let’s embrace our values as a nation of immigrants and provide relief for the long-term residents of the United States,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, a California Democrat.

The lawmakers are calling for the Biden administration to provide relief from deportation to spouses and other family members of U.S. citizens, as well as extended temporary protected status, which allows people from countries ravaged by disaster and war to live and work legally in the United States.

At the same time, Democrats, especially those in political swing states, are encouraging the White House to take unilateral action to curtail border crossings.

In the Senate, Democrats are considering whether to put a series of border proposals to a vote to show that Republicans oppose swifter border enforcement. In the House, 15 Democrats wrote this week a letter to the White House encouraging executive actions.

“We need to make sure that we are adjudicating those coming across just as quickly as possible, specifically around administrative judges being down at the southern border,” said Rep. Angie Craig, a Minnesota Democrat who led the letter. “And I think there’s a limit to the number of people we can accept into our nation on an asylum claim. At the end of the day, we cannot have a border where an unlimited amount of people can cross.”
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