Asylum Interviews Could Speed Up Under New Program
FAIR Take | April 2023
Last week, Homeland Security officials unveiled their plan to increase the pace of asylum interviews through a new program. The new program is being launched in anticipation of the wave of asylum-seekers expected to illegally cross the southern border after Title 42 expulsions end on May 11.
The asylum interview, typically called the credible fear interview, is the method by which asylum-seekers are screened when they arrive at the border and express fear of persecution in their home countries. These interviews are conducted by USCIS asylum officers whose goal is to determine whether the alien has a credible fear of persecution. If so, the alien is referred to an immigration judge (within the Department of Justice) for a final decision on whether to grant asylum. Or, under new procedures announced last year, USICS may hold the case and conduct a second hearing, called an asylum merits interview, and grant asylum based on alien’s case. If the asylum officer determines that the alien does not have credible fear and an immigration judge agrees, the alien is subject to immediate deportation (expedited removal).
Under the Biden Administration’s new program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to conduct credible fear interviews at the border facilities instead of at ICE detention facilities. The program will start with a relatively small number of migrants as soon as this week, and, according to DHS, the interviews will be conducted by phone “in large Customs and Border Protection temporary facilities stocked with phone lines.” The hope is that by conducting the interview immediately, cases will proceed more quickly. The goal is to have credible fear interviews completed within 72 hours—an aggressive timeline by any measure.
Critics are already denouncing the program, in particular, because it is strikingly similar to President Trump’s HARP and PACR programs. Under HARP and PACR, CBP also conducted credible fear interviews at the border with a goal of completing interviews within 5-7 days. Upon apprehension, aliens were given 24 hours (subsequently 48 hours) and phone access to consult with anyone of their choosing, including an attorney. Nevertheless, open-borders advocates decried the program for denying illegal aliens sufficient time to prepare claims and the opportunity to consult with an attorney.
The Biden Administration is working hard to appease the advocates by insisting illegal aliens claiming asylum at the border will get legal representation. In a statement released to reporters, a Homeland Security spokesman said, “As part of ongoing preparation efforts for the end of the CDC’s Title 42 public health order, DHS will work with legal service providers to provide access to legal services for individuals who receive credible fear interviews in CBP custody.”
Who the legal services providers are is still uncertain. It is also uncertain how the new program will interact with the Biden Administration’s new asylum rule that is expected to be finalized before the end of Title 42. That rule, among other things, requires asylum seekers arriving at the southern border to make appointments via the CBP One mobile app and present themselves at official ports of entry.
FAIR will continue to monitor this program and its implementation.