News » New Asylum Rule Sacrifices Justice in the Name of Speed

New Asylum Rule Sacrifices Justice in the Name of Speed

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Mar 24, 2022

This morning the Biden administration issued an interim final rule that will allow many people seeking refuge at the U.S. border to have their claims decided by asylum officers, rather than immigration judges. Those not granted protection at the asylum office stage will have the opportunity to have their claims heard in immigration court. The Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) and our partners have long advocated for the government to allow all asylum seekers to present their claims in the less adversarial asylum office setting. However, as a trade-off for this positive shift, the rule rushes any subsequent immigration court proceedings and subjects asylum seekers to impossible deadlines.

“Allowing individuals to present their claims to asylum officers, in a non-adversarial process, is a welcome step forward. However, the extremely accelerated procedure the rule imposes will have dire consequences for asylum seekers, making it nearly impossible to obtain legal representation. Justice should never be sacrificed in the name of speed,” CGRS Director Karen Musalo said today. “Numerous studies show that representation makes a critical, life-saving difference in asylum outcomes. Asylum seekers represented by an attorney are five times more likely to win relief than their unrepresented counterparts. This new rule will inevitably lead to people being wrongly denied protection and ordered deported to countries where they face persecution or torture. Making matters worse, the administration has failed to clarify our asylum laws for adjudicators, as directed by the president over a year ago, meaning these accelerated decisions will be riddled with confusion and bias.”

The new rule sets completely unrealistic deadlines for people seeking asylum to submit evidence and prepare for their asylum hearings. Compressing the asylum hearing timeline so drastically will make it all but impossible for most asylum seekers to secure legal representation and prepare the copious evidence necessary to prevail in their cases. Previous attempts to truncate the asylum process have resulted not in greater efficiency, but in greater numbers of asylum seekers forced to navigate their cases alone. Just 15.5 percent of asylum-seeking families rushed through the Biden administration’s “dedicated docket” have been able to access counsel. Of the 1,687 dedicated docket cases that have been decided, just 13 families have been granted asylum, all with the support of an attorney. In cases with life-or-death consequences, it is baffling that the Biden administration has doubled down on an approach that prioritizes speed above due process.

Until the Biden administration fulfills its promise to realign U.S. law with international standards, the asylum process will remain impossibly rigged against people seeking refuge. Yet the administration has dragged its feet on measures that would actually make the asylum process fairer. Its self-imposed deadline to issue regulations that could level the playing field for people fleeing domestic violence and gang brutality came and went five months ago. The administration has offered no indication of when these regulations might see the light of day. And the border remains all but closed to asylum seekers on specious public health grounds. Until the Biden administration ends its racist and illegal Title 42 policy, our asylum system will remain virtually shuttered to all people seeking safety at the southern border.