Biden administration announces rule aiming to speed up asylum screening process for some migrants

FILE - US President Joe Biden speaks with US Customs and Border Protection officers as he visits the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 8, 2023. ( JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration announced new standards which aim to speed up asylum processing at the southern border, enabling them to quickly reject a limited group of people believed to have committed serious crimes or who have terrorist links. 

"This will allow DHS to expeditiously remove individuals who pose a threat to the United States much sooner than is currently the case, better safeguarding the security of our border and our country," the Department of Homeland Security said in the statement.

What’s changing? 

Currently, migrants who arrive at the border undergo an initial screening for "credible fear." The person would be allowed to move on even if he or she has a criminal background or would pose a security risk. 

A judge will then later determine whether that migrant would be eligible to stay in the U.S. for asylum. 

The new rule would basically allow a border patrol officer to conduct the usual initial screening and decide whether or not the person is safe to enter, according to AP sources. 

When will the change take effect? 

The new rule won’t likely go into effect for months. 

Biden continues to mull larger executive action on the border, whose timing depends in large part on whether the number of illegal border crossings increases — they have been steadily decreasing since December.

Immigration advocates raise questions

The new screening process prompted immigration advocates to ring the alarm over concerns that many migrants are being subjected to questions so soon after surviving life-threatening trips to get to the U.S. 

Sources told AP that the new rule would likely impact a very small number of migrants seeking asylum. 

Despite this, advocates relented and said initial interviews were originally designed to have a lower bar so that migrants would not be wrongfully deported. 

Migrants also may not have access to adequate legal counsel when answering these screening questions, which is a key first step toward an asylum claim. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.