By: Tania Ramirez
Asylum seekers make up a large portion of the migrants continuously arriving at the border. Typically, asylum seekers who are not detained are issued a summons and wait an average of more than five years before appearing in court. However, the Biden administration seeks to reduce the current backlog of 1.7 million cases by clearing over hundreds of thousands of deportation and asylum cases. In doing so, the Biden administration unveiled new procedures to handle these claims efficiently and timely, essentially hoping that cases could be decided in months rather than years. With these efforts, new rules are being created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to process asylum claims efficiently and fairly.
On March 24th, 2022, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a new rule that the DHS and DOJ issued to improve and expedite the processing of asylum claims to ensure that those who are eligible for asylum are granted relief, while those who are not are promptly removed. In addition, this rule empowers asylum officers to grant or deny claims, an authority that used to be limited to immigration judges. Initially, asylum officers would handle the screenings for asylum and other forms of humanitarian relief for border arrivals. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland says that “this rule advances our efforts to ensure that asylum claims are processed fairly, expeditiously, and consistent with due process.”
Along with the new rule issued, the USCIS has established “new internal cycle time goals” to reduce the agency’s pending caseload. With this new cycle, applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly. Particular forms, such as I-131 (Advance Parole), usually take around 13 to 20 months to be processed. However, these new cycle time goals are expected to be processed within three months. In addition, DACA renewals (I-821D) that were processed between 6-12 months would now be processed within six months. On March 29th, the DHS announced a final rule that aligns premium procession regulations with the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act, which applies to petitioners filing a form I-129, and employment-based immigrant visa petitioners filing a Form I-140. The forms under the premium processing are set to be processed within two weeks. Although the “new cycle time goals” may not begin immediately, USCIS hopes to achieve them by the end of 2023 by increasing capacity, improving technology, and expanding staffing.
“DHS and DOJ Issue Rule to Efficiently and Fairly Process Asylum Claims.” USCIS, 24 Mar. 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/news-releases/dhs-and-doj-issue-rule-to-efficiently-and-fairly-process-asylum-claims.
“USCIS Announces New Actions to Reduce Backlogs, Expand Premium Processing, and Provide Relief to Work Permit Holders.” USCIS, 29 Mar. 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/news-releases/uscis-announces-new-actions-to-reduce-backlogs-expand-premium-processing-and-provide-relief-to-work.