Immigrant Justice Corps recently submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice about proposed changes to the U.S. asylum system. Below is a summary of IJC’s comments.
The U.S. government is introducing sweeping changes to our asylum system aimed at increasing the efficiency of asylum case proceedings by limiting the number of cases that proceed to Immigration Court. While IJC appreciates efforts to improve the asylum process, we are concerned that the proposed changes do not consider the best interests of those most affected by this system – asylum seekers.
In particular, there are no provisions that make it easier for asylum seekers to access legal counsel, which is critically important given that asylum applicants are five times more likely to be granted asylum if they have representation. The proposed changes to the asylum system are aimed at quickly processing recent arrivals in order to slow the growth of the backlog of immigration court cases, but it is not at all clear if these changes will result in better outcomes for asylum seekers.
It is probable that under the new system, many more cases of people with viable claims to asylum will be denied because of the process’s extremely short timeframe, along with lack of access to counsel. We agree that it is necessary to take measures to address the backlog of cases in immigration court, but not at the expense of due process. More must be done to ensure that applicants with a viable claim to asylum are heard.
As immigration law practitioners, we want our country’s asylum system to work for those who are most impacted by it. We know the power of representation in immigration proceedings, and we recognize that legal representation will be even more important under the new regulations, because the measures designed to increase efficiency also threaten due process. Here, as elsewhere in the immigration system, federally funded representation is necessary. Likewise, support for organizations that develop a pipeline of quality immigration legal representatives is crucial.
Unless the new regulations address the need for comprehensive legal education about the asylum process and access to counsel, we are concerned that asylum seekers will not have the due process that is necessary to comply with America’s obligations under the Immigration & Nationality Act and international law.
Read IJC’s full comment here.
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