The Biden administration today rolled out a new rule that attempts to repair a deeply flawed asylum system. Although the rule rolls back dangerous changes to the asylum process made in 2020, and adopts some new procedures that are welcomed, it does not go far enough to ensure the protection of individuals seeking asylum in the U.S.
“While we welcome some of the changes that this rule brings, the new regulations just don’t offer a solution to the systemically rooted problems that keep survivors of violence from presenting their case successfully,” said Archi Pyati, CEO of the Tahirih Justice Center. “What we need instead is a bolder shift toward welcoming people seeking asylum with respect. Until the U.S. recognizes that it has a moral obligation to be a safe sanctuary for those who have experienced violence, these changes will fall short – and in this case, even do harm.”
Among the changes, the rule allows asylum officers to grant asylum to people arriving at the border seeking asylum. This is welcomed, though undermined by the continued existence of the Title 42 and Remain in Mexico policies, which restrict the ability of asylum seekers to access the U.S. system.
The rule also creates an extremely expedited process which sacrifices fairness for speed and will have a particularly damaging impact on trauma survivors’ access to due process. Survivors of violence, among other asylum seekers, need sufficient time to find legal representation, gather evidence that supports their case, and begin the process of healing from the trauma they endured before they sit down in front of a stranger for an asylum interview.
The new rule will also exacerbate existing asylum backlogs and create even longer delays for survivors who have already filed their asylum applications. Asylum officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services already face a backlog of more than 400,000 asylum applications, many of which have been pending since the Obama administration. Without significant funding from Congress, enough officers cannot be hired to manage the additional case load.
The procedure in the final rule is even more disappointing because DHS and DOJ have options that actually balance fairness and efficiency. Simply adding provisions that guarantee people sufficient time to find a lawyer, to gather evidence, and to heal from trauma without imposing arbitrary deadlines on those efforts would dramatically improve the accuracy of asylum adjudications, impose only a minimal burden on the agency, and save countless lives.
The Tahirih Justice Center is committed to challenging these changes on behalf of the thousands of immigrant survivors of violence that are desperately searching for safety in the United States.
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The Tahirih Justice Center is a national, nonprofit organization that serves immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. By amplifying the experiences of survivors in communities, courts, and Congress, Tahirih’s mission is to create a world in which all people share equal rights and live in safety and with dignity.