March 4, 2024

Central American migrants who were incarcerated turned over their belongings to U.S. Border Protection agents after entering the United States from Mexico on July 22, 2021 at Sunland Park, New Mexico, United States.

Jose Luis González | Reuters

The Biden government announced Tuesday that it would speed up the processing of asylum applications for migrants at the US-Mexico border while streamlining deportations for those who are not entitled to asylum.

These border policy changes are part of a broader 21-point plan released Tuesday that aims to create a “fairer, more orderly and humane” immigration system following the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies.

The plan provided that asylum officers were given full decision-making powers in asylum cases. This would allow asylum seekers to bypass heavily overburdened federal immigration courts, thereby speeding up application processing.

An asylum application court record will also be set up to prioritize these cases and 100 judges will be hired to ensure they are dealt with on time according to the plan.

Migrants who do not apply for asylum or are deemed to be unqualified are subject to a speedy deportation process known as “expedited deportation” which allows immigration authorities to deport a migrant without a hearing from an immigration judge. However, the document contained only a few details of the deportation procedure.

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“Asylum and other legal migration routes should remain open to those seeking protection. Those who do not seek protection or do not qualify will be immediately deported to their countries of origin, ”says the plan.

Randy Capps, director of research for US programs at the Migration Policy Institute, said the application of “expedited deportation” is expected to “restore the path to asylum”.

“An expedited deportation would allow the system to work faster by removing people from being placed in an immigration court system where it takes years to review their cases,” Capps said.

The plan comes as the Biden government is grappling with the flood of migrants from Mexico and Central America crossing the border illegally. Migrant detentions have hit a 20-year high in the past few months and are showing no signs of slowing.

Brian Hastings, chief of the Rio Grande Valley border patrol, tweeted Sunday that concerns at the border were “rising”. He cited more than 20,000 migrants arrested in the Rio Grande Valley within a week.

Federal officials also recorded more than 1.1 million arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border in the first six months of this fiscal year, with nearly 190,000 arrests in June, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Other broader efforts outlined in the plan include tackling the root cause of this increased migration on the southern border, led by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The plan did not include a timetable for implementing the changes, but stated that it “will not be achieved overnight” due to the “irrational and inhumane policies” of the Trump administration.

President Joe Biden has worked to overturn many of his predecessor’s restrictive immigration policies, despite the fact that border prisons are overcrowded with migrants.

However, Biden continues to enforce Trump-era restrictions such as Title 42 introduced by the former president to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It allows the US to expel migrants without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum.

Late on Monday, the Biden government also announced that it would speed up deportations for some migrant families through “accelerated deportations”.

The expeditious deportation procedure will apply specifically to family units who are not deported to Mexico under Title 42 and who are not entitled to asylum, according to a statement by the Ministry of Homeland Security.

The government’s decision to use “expedited deportation” has been harshly criticized by many immigration supporters, with some claiming that the process would not ensure due process for migrants.

“An expedited system without proper process protection and oversight should never be deployed where people’s lives could be at stake,” Lee Gelernt, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNBC.

Avideh Moussavian, the director of the federal prosecution at the National Immigration Law Center, said the organization was “deeply concerned” by the decision.

“Doubling down these harmful policies is a step in the wrong direction and will amplify the disparate effects the government’s focus on border deterrence has on low-income migrants of color,” Moussavian told CNBC.