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D.C. Bureau Immigration

Asylum seekers with criminal records would be more quickly removed under Biden proposal

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. DHS photo by Tia Dufour.

The Biden administration announced Thursday it’s proposing changes to the asylum system that would allow immigration officials to reject asylum seekers who have a criminal record that poses a threat to national security or public safety and to quickly remove them.

Those changes will occur during the initial screening stages, a senior U.S. Department of Homeland Security official said, on background, during a call with reporters.

The proposed rule would allow asylum officers to issue a denial within days if there is evidence that a migrant is ineligible to claim asylum due to ties to terrorism, a threat to national security or a criminal background.

“This really only applies to individuals who have a serious criminal history or who are linked to terrorist activity and that is inherently a small fraction of the individuals that we encounter or interview on a given day,” the senior DHS official said. “We don’t think that the rule will apply to large numbers of people but it will apply to the people that we are most concerned about.”

Currently, when a migrant claims asylum, they undergo a “credible fear” screening even if they have criminal charges levied against them, and depending on the severity of the charges, they can continue to seek asylum or be disqualified.

“The proposed rule we have published today is yet another step in our ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of the American public by more quickly identifying and removing those individuals who present a security risk and have no legal basis to remain here,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

DHS is also issuing revised guidance to asylum officers to consider whether an asylum seeker can relocate to another part of their country where they fear persecution, known as internal relocation. This was implemented under the Trump administration by Ken Cuccinelli and the Biden administration rolled that policy back.

The new guidance “will ensure early identification and removal of individuals who would ultimately be found ineligible for protection because of their ability to remain safe by relocating elsewhere in the country from which they fled,” according to a DHS press release.

The Biden administration is dealing with the largest number of migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border in 20 years, and has faced continued intense criticism about its immigration policies from Republicans and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Congressional Republicans have passed legislation to reinstate hard-line Trump-era immigration policies, walked back a bipartisan border security deal and recently impeached Mayorkas. The Senate quickly rejected the House’s impeachment bid.

The public comment period on the notice for the proposed rule will be from May 13 to June 12. The senior DHS official said the agency anticipates the proposed rule to be finalized this year and quickly implemented.


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Asylum seekers with criminal records would be more quickly removed under Biden proposal