On April 1, NPR reported that the Biden administration is considering overhauling the asylum process for arriving aliens (including illegal migrants) at the border, along the lines of a September 2018 proposal from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). It is a bad plan, which would do little if anything to discourage illegal entrants, instead giving them two “bites” at the asylum “apple” and delay their removals.
As I noted in an October 14 post, Biden referenced that plan on his campaign website, where he promised:
“Migrants who qualify for an asylum claim will be admitted to the country through an orderly process and connected with resources that will help them care for themselves. Migrants who do not qualify will have the opportunity to make their claim before an immigration judge.“
Here is how the current system works: Under section 235(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), aliens who are apprehended by CBP entering illegally at the border, or without proper documents at the ports of entry, are subject to “expedited removal”, meaning that they can be quickly removed by DHS from the United States without receiving a removal order from an immigration judge (IJ).
If the alien claims, however, to have a fear of harm, or requests asylum, CBP will hand the alien over to an asylum officer (AO) from USCIS, for a “credible fear” interview. Credible fear is a screening process to assess whether the alien may have an asylum claim, and thus proving credible fear is easier than establishing eligibility for asylum.
If the alien is found by the AO to have a credible fear (and the vast majority are), the alien is placed into removal proceedings to apply for asylum before an IJ. The government is represented by an attorney from ICE, who can offer evidence that supports or contradicts the alien’s claim, and can probe for inconsistencies in the alien’s testimony.
If the alien receives a “negative credible fear” assessment from the AO, the alien can seek a “credible fear review” from an IJ. The government is represented by an attorney from ICE in those proceedings, as well. The IJ can affirm or reverse the AO, and if the IJ reverses, the alien is placed into removal proceedings to apply for asylum under the process above.