DHS Releases Overhaul of Fast-Track Asylum System
The Biden administration published a rule Tuesday overhauling the fast-track asylum system in an effort to speed up the process and take pressure off the nation’s critically overburdened immigration courts.
The rule applies to people seeking asylum who are subject to a fast-tracked deportation proceeding known as “expedited removal,” and is set to go into effect on May 31 this year.
Under the new rule, asylum-seekers who fear persecution if they are returned to their home country will have their applications decided by USCIS asylum officers instead of immigration judges. The government hopes to avoid adding any additional cases to the nation’s immigration courts, which are currently sitting at over 1.7 million cases. Pending asylum cases alone make up nearly 40% of the immigration court backlog.
Biden Requests $56 Billion for DHS in 2023 Budget
President Biden proposed the second budget of his term on Monday, a $5.8 trillion request to Congress containing $56.7 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and $1.4 billion for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) immigration courts.
The budget reflects the Biden administration’s priorities for the upcoming year, and contains funding requests for all 15 executive departments and their sub-agencies.
As part of the proposed budget, USCIS received $904 million, a 700% increase over the 2021 spending level. Of that request, Biden has requested $765 million specifically to reduce asylum backlogs, streamline refugee processing, and decrease the immigration application backlog.
Biden Expected to End Title 42 Border Policy in Late May
The Biden administration is expected to end a controversial policy on May 23 that immediately expels migrants and asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border without a hearing or the chance to request asylum.
The policy, known as Title 42, was implemented by former President Trump in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to control the spread of the virus at border facilities. President Biden renewed the order in August 2021.
Under Title 42, more than 1.7 million migrants have been expelled in the past two years, with 70% of those under Biden.
Biden has argued that expelling migrants is necessary for public health reasons.
New Measures to Reduce the 9.5 Million Immigration Application Backlog
On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced new measures to decrease the enormous backlog of immigration applications.
As part of the new plan, USCIS says it will hire more staff, expand premium processing, and continue modernizing its technology to meet processing time goals. The agency believes it can meet these goals by September 2023.
USCIS has grappled with the backlog for years, and Trump-era immigration policies and the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the problem.
As of February, the backlog was at 9.5 million applications, up from 5.7 million at the end of Fiscal Year 2019.
USCIS Announces 60-Day Deadline Extension for RFEs and NOIDs
USCIS announced that, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is once again giving applicants extra time to respond to Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and NOIDs, or Notices of Intent to Deny.
Applicants can respond to an agency request within 60 calendar days of the due date given by USCIS in the original notice. This policy applies to RFEs and other requests from USCIS that are dated between March 1, 2020, and July 25, 2022.
USCIS said this will likely be the last time it extends response deadlines as agency operations return to normal.