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Fleet of asylum officers tapped to crack yearslong immigration backlog
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Fleet of asylum officers tapped to crack yearslong immigration backlog

Asylum applications could previously be reviewed only by judges, but that is about to change

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U.S. officials announced a new rule on Thursday aimed at screening the immigration claims of people who would otherwise face expedited removal but have asserted that they will be persecuted or tortured if returned to their homelands.

Previously only immigration judges within the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review were authorized to consider such applications. The average wait time for such cases to go through the court system takes years.

Under the new rule, however eligible applicants will be able to schedule an interview with an asylum officer who will then decide whether to grant the request or refer them for removal proceedings. The interviews will be held in a timely fashion, and removal proceedings will also be streamlined to ensure efficient case resolutions, officials promise.

“When fully implemented, the reforms and new efficiencies will shorten the process to several months for most asylum applicants covered by this rule,” the DOJ said in a press release.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on Thursday that the incoming regulation will ensure asylum claims are processed “fairly, expeditiously, and consistent with due process.”

“It will help reduce the burden on our immigration courts, protect the rights of those fleeing persecution and violence, and enable immigration judges to issue removal orders when appropriate,” Garland said.

The Justice Department said the new rule will be implemented in phases, beginning with a limited number of applicants that will eventually increase as the department receives “additional resources and builds capacity.”

Thursday’s announcement follows a notice of proposed rulemaking published last August aimed at amending regulations “governing the procedures for determining certain protection claims and available parole procedures for individuals subject to expedited removal and found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture.”  

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Thursday that the current system “has long needed repair.”

“Through this rule, we are building a more functional and sensible asylum system to ensure that individuals who are eligible will receive protection more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be rapidly removed,” Mayorkas said.

The rule will go into effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

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