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U.S. Moves to Start Fast-Track Asylum Screening

In a move sure to upset immigration advocates, the Biden administration is taking steps to start fast-track asylum screenings at the U.S.-Mexico border, a program similar to those under former President Donald Trump that also drew flak. Citing anonymous sources, Reuters reports that administration officials visited the border this week in preparation for the new effort, though when the program will start remains unclear. Rapid screenings will try to determine whether arriving migrants at the border have a legitimate fear of persecution or torture in their home countries, the first step in an asylum claim. Under the plan, asylum seekers detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection would have remote interviews with a U.S. asylum officer within days, the sources said. If the person failed to establish a fear of persecution, known as a "credible fear" test, they would be deported.

Biden ended the similar Trump programs soon after he took office in January 2021. The current moves are meant to address a record number of illegal crossings, which have put the Biden administration on the defensive for supposedly not doing enough to deter illegal immigration. While the speedy processing could provide deterrence by demonstrating swift resolution of cases, opponents argue that legitimate asylum seekers would not have adequate access to lawyers and could be unjustly deported. "Imagine fleeing your home and loved ones, arriving at a new country to seek safety, and then being forced to present a complicated legal claim less than two days later, from jail," said Heidi Altman, the policy director at the National Immigrant Justice Center, calling it a "mockery of justice." Biden earlier this month expanded a pandemic-related border expulsion policy started under Trump, while at the same time opening up more legal pathways for migrants to enter the United States, a move the administration said led to a drop in crossings in January.


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