By Ibrahim Dagher
WASHINGTON, D.C.––The Biden administration recently announced new overhauling changes to the US asylum system. The administration is seeking to lay the groundwork for systemic change in the way asylum cases are handled in the immigration court system. The news comes as part of a wider effort by the administration to deal with a growing surge of incoming immigrants at the southern border.
United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced in a recent statement that the administration would begin implementing “long-needed systemic reforms” for asylum seekers and their cases, which are handled by the American immigration court system. Specifically, Mayorkas plans to “shorten from years to months the time it takes to adjudicate an asylum claim,” while at the same time “ensuring procedural safeguards and enhancing access to counsel.”
The administration plans to achieve its goal of quickening the process by moving many asylum cases from the purview of the Department of Justice to the Department of Homeland Security. This comes as a relief for many immigration officials, as the number of pending immigration cases in the system is over one million.
The hope is that such a move will remove pressure from the Justice Department’s immense asylum caseload, and as such create a system that is better equipped to handle the increasing surge of migrants at the southwest border. According to recent reports, Homeland Security officials, who already deal with asylum seeker cases, will be able to help handle around 400,000 additional cases and thus quicken the adjudication process.
These policy plans come as a refreshing piece of news in light of the recent migration crisis at the border which was also under the Biden administration. A recent research article by Pew Research indicates that migrant apprehensions have been increasing at a historic rate since Biden took office.
Even more alarming is the fact that the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border has risen 63 percent, with over 10,000 minors being apprehended by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office. As such, Biden’s call for a more flexible and efficient migrant case handling system was in high order.
Furthermore, given the surge in unaccompanied migrant apprehensions, an important part of this announcement is Mayorkas’ outline of how the administration is working on “creating joint processing centers so that children can be placed in HHS care immediately after Border Patrol encounters them.”
The Biden administration is approaching the migrant border crisis not only with systemic changes to legal adjudication and purview, but also with the proper infrastructure to maintain a humane apprehension process at the border.
It may be this dualist policymaking that President Biden referenced as his “multi-pronged approach toward managing migration…that reflects the Nation’s highest values,” in a February Executive Order which set up the framework for these new judicial changes later on.
There is much to be said concerning the border migration surge that the Biden administration faces. Much conversation revolves around whether its main causes come from a combination of COVID-19 and climate change, or if at the heart of the issue lies President Biden’s own policymaking. What seems to be clear, though, is that these recent announcements are the starting points, if not cornerstones, of a response to the crisis by the Biden Administration.
Ibrahim Dagher is a first-year Philosophy major and Political Science minor at UC Davis from the Central Valley. His interests include writing professional analytic philosophy and engaging in public speaking events.