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New White House Plan Speeds up Asylum Approval and Deportation

July 27, 2021 by Dan McCue
President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 26, 2021. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday released a 21-point plan aimed at processing asylum claims quickly and deporting those who do not qualify.

“Asylum and other legal migration pathways should remain available to those seeking protection. Those not seeking protection or who don’t qualify will be promptly removed to their countries of origin,” the document said.

The plan calls for asylum officers to have complete authority to rule on asylum claims for migrants crossing the border, allowing asylum seekers to bypass immigration courts, which now have a backlog of more than 1.2 million cases.

The decisions by asylum officers will be guided by a “clear and just eligibility standard” that the White House said will “harmonize the U.S. approach with international standards.”

“The administration has already begun to rescind Trump administration policies and decisions that unjustly prevent individuals from obtaining asylum,” the document said, noting that on June 16, the Justice Department reversed two of the former administration’s rulings severely restricting asylum protections for victims of domestic and gang violence.

The White House aims to send asylum cases that do go to court to a dedicated docket to be sure they are given priority, the plan said.

Families seeking asylum would also have access to legal counsel, a goal dependent on Congress’s approval of a $15 million budget request for next year.

Immigrants who are determined to be unqualified, meanwhile, or who do not claim asylum will be deported more quickly.

The White House did not place a timeline on when it might implement the changes to its border policy. 

Many of the ideas have already been proposed through the federal rulemaking process and budget proposals, including the hiring of 100 more immigration judges, but are now being codified in one strategic plan.

The document cautions that Biden’s plan “won’t be achieved overnight,” blaming the Trump administration’s “irrational and inhumane policies” for the delays in building an “orderly and humane immigration system.”

Tuesday’s announcement comes as the number of migrant families entering U.S. border custody has been increasing. 

In June, U.S. agents along the southern border encountered nearly 56,000 parents and children traveling as families — a 25% jump from May, according to data from Customs and Border Protection. 

Most of the families who entered U.S. custody in June hailed from Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador and Mexico, the agency said.

The Biden administration has continued to use a public health authority known as Title 42, which was invoked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2020, to quickly expel border-crossers to Mexico or their home countries.

The administration has declined to use Title 42 to expel unaccompanied children, who have been transferred to shelters overseen by the U.S. refugee agency. But it has said that adults and families will be expelled without a court hearing or an asylum screening.

On Monday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked what any change in asylum policy might mean for the continued reliance on Title 42.

“We have never conveyed or announced a timeline for Title 42,” Psaki said. “So nothing has changed in that regard. It remains in place, and it will remain in place as long as that is the guidance from our health and medical experts.”

The White House said while President Biden can implement significant parts of the newly announced plan through his executive authority, Congress must also act.

“Millions of noncitizens call our country home. … They are Americans in every way but on paper. The American public supports a path to citizenship and a fair and efficient legal immigration system that welcomes talent from around the globe and allows families to reunite and make a life in our country,” the document said.

The administration is specifically calling on Congress to pass “through reconciliation or other means” three pending bills: The U.S. Citizenship Act, The Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.

The U.S. Citizenship Act (H.R. 1177/S. 348) aims to reunite families, give businesses access to a workforce with full labor rights, and creates a path to citizenship for those already living and working in the United States.

The administration believes these reforms, coupled with measures to address the root causes of migration from Central America, will relieve pressure at the border by dissuading irregular migration.

The other legislation, The Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) and Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603), create a path to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS recipients, and farmworkers.

Both bills passed the House with bipartisan support. They will protect millions of families, children, and essential workers who live, work, study, and worship in our communities, the White House said.

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