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WASHINGTON, D.C. — An asylum screening rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) denies asylum seekers their due process rights by limiting their ability to properly represent themselves, find legal representation, and present their asylum claim. While the proposed rule seeks to shorten the timeline to reach a decision on asylum cases, it does so at the expense of due process. 

The proposed Interim Final Rule (IFR) amends regulations governing the procedures for determining certain protection claims and available parole procedures for asylum seekers subject to expedited removal and found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture. As a result, streamlined removal procedures will now occur after an individual has passed their Credible Fear Interview and when DHS’ United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) refers noncitizens whose applications are not granted to DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. 

“Under U.S. law, claiming asylum at the border is legal,” said Stephanie M. Alvarez-Jones, staff attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “People facing serious human rights violations have the right to seek protection, and the United States has the obligation not to return people to where they would be at risk of persecution or death. In the name of ‘efficiency,’ the government’s unrealistic immigration rules fail to protect the due process protections asylum seekers’ are afforded.” 

The SPLC submitted comments to DHS and DOJ urging the proposed rule be revised. The comments, in part, read

“SIFI’s [Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative] ability to provide competent representation to individuals detained across the Southeast will be severely compromised if the asylum seekers it represents are subject to the IFR’s rocket docket. In each of the examples included below, SIFI’s client, detained during their individual hearing, had at least five months between the time they arrived at the United States and their individual hearing. In each example, these months were critical in securing and preparing the evidence necessary to establish each asylum seeker’s claim for relief. Despite our best efforts, the logical and natural result of the IFR’s streamlined procedures would be a decrease in the number of people SIFI could represent.” 

“This proposed rule would be nearly impossible to comply with, especially for those in detention, and since Black and Brown asylum seekers are detained at higher rates, the rule would disproportionately impact Black and Brown immigrants,” stated Matt Boles, direct services attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “The government has chosen speed over ensuring asylum seekers are not returned to harm.” 

“The Interim Final Rule would dramatically change adjudication procedures for asylum seekers. The SPLC welcomes several of the changes included in the IFR, but has serious concerns about the processes and timelines the IFR creates. The Departments’ stated desire for efficiency should not lead to straining asylum seekers and legal representatives to the limit, essentially eliminating the time asylum seekers need to properly prepare their case and retain counsel. To be sure, the United States needs an asylum system that is efficient, but that system must also be fair, reliable, and contain sufficient safeguards of individuals’ due process rights. The IFR does not promote such a system. The SPLC strongly urges the Departments to rescind, or substantially rewrite, the unethical and legally deficient parts of this IFR.” 

A copy of SPLC’s comments is available here