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U.S. announces efforts to speed up trials of migrants who cross the border illegally

The Biden administration announced an effort Thursday to shorten the time it takes for U.S. immigration judges to decide the asylum cases of some migrants who enter the country illegally along the border with Mexico.

Adult migrants released by federal border officials after crossing illegally into the United States will be eligible for placement in the program, part of a joint initiative by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, which oversees immigration courts. immigration of the country.

The goal of the effort, senior U.S. officials said, is to speed up the process of granting asylum to migrants with legitimate cases and reject weak cases. Federal officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations have said the current multi-year delay in adjudicating asylum claims constitutes a “pull factor” that attracts the migration of economic migrants, who do not qualify for eligibility. humanitarian protection, but who often use the asylum system to obtain asylum. work in the United States

In recent years, the backlog of cases received by immigration courts has exploded, leading to wait times that often exceed four years. Fewer than 800 immigration judges oversee more than 3.5 million unresolved cases.

Single migrant adults who plan to live in five major U.S. cities – Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York – could be selected for the new process, which will require immigration judges to issue their decisions within 180 days, instead of several years.

Since the Obama administration, the United States has implemented several similar programs, colloquially known as “rocket files.” While officials have touted them as ways to deter illegal immigration, advocates said rocket cases trample migrants’ due process by making it harder for them to get lawyers in time for their hearings.

The scope of Thursday’s announcement was not immediately clear, as U.S. officials declined to provide an estimate of how many migrants would be placed in the fast-track process. Ten judges have been assigned to the program, one of the officials said in a call with reporters.

The latest rocket file is the most recent action taken by the Biden administration to reduce illegal border crossingswhich increased last year to record levels. Last week, the Biden administration released a proposed rule it would allow immigration officials to more quickly reject and deport asylum-seeking migrants deemed to endanger public safety or national security.

Last year, the administration implemented a regulation that presumes migrants are not eligible for asylum in the United States if they enter the country illegally after failing to seek refuge in another country. This policy has been associated with a vast expansion of opportunities for some potential migrants to legally enter the United States.

President Biden, who has increasingly embraced more restrictive border policies, is also considering a more sweeping measure that would further restrict asylum for those who enter the United States illegally. The move, which would rely on a presidential authority known as 212(f), would almost certainly face legal challenges.

Administration officials have argued they are considering unilateral immigration action because of the breakdown of a border security deal the White House reached with a bipartisan group of senators earlier This year. While the deal would have severely restricted asylum and increased deportations without legalizing illegal immigrants, most Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, roundly rejected it.

“This administrative action does not replace the sweeping and much-needed changes that the bipartisan Senate bill would make, but in the absence of congressional action, we will do everything possible to enforce the law as effectively as possible and deter migration irregular,” Homeland Security said. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement Thursday.

The Biden administration has faced unprecedented levels of migration along the southern border, including more than two million migrant apprehensions in each of the past two years.

Migrants wait in line to be transferred by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing the Bravo River in El Paso, Texas, seen from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, April 18, 2024.

HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images


However, in recent months, migrant crossings having dived, bucking historical patterns that saw migration soar in the spring. Last month, the Border Patrol recorded nearly 129,000 migrant apprehensions, up from 137,000 in March, according to government data. American officials have credited with increase in evictions and a crackdown on immigration by Mexico for this surprising decline.