The Biden administration will begin to allow some migrants to ask for asylum as they arrive at the southern border at the end of May even as it continues to use a pandemic-era public health rule to quickly turn migrants away without the option to seek it. The new process, intended to deliver a decision within months instead of the years it currently takes via the immigration court system, will apply to a “few hundred” migrants a month, the New York Times reports. The policy’s immediate effect is likely to be minimal, dwarfed by vast backlogs in the immigration system and a recent surge of migrants at the border. It is far from a broad restoration of access to asylum, which was curtailed by the Trump administration and the pandemic.
If the Biden administration continues with its plan to roll out the policy in phases, it could represent the leading edge of what could be the most sweeping change to the asylum process in a quarter-century. “Individuals who qualify for asylum will receive protection more swiftly, and those who are not eligible will be promptly removed rather than remaining in the U.S. for years while their cases are pending,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “We are delivering justice quickly, while also ensuring due process.” The new plan, which went through months of review and public comment, is President Biden’s first significant policy aimed at improving the asylum system, which he pledged to restore after four years of decline during the Trump administration.