US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will be making adjustments to its asylum application processing, tackling newer applications first before older filings to reduce the agency’s overwhelming asylum backlog.
Under the Trump administration, the agency will now be giving first priority to applications that were rescheduled by either the applicant or USCIS, and second priority to applications pending for no more than 21 days since filing. Additionally, newer filings will be placed at the top of the queue, reverting to the “last in first out” scheme previously observed by the agency.
USCIS oversees the country’s legal immigration system, which includes handling and deliberating asylum claims among others. At present, the agency faces a huge backlog of more than 311,000 pending asylum applications—a 1750 percent spike from the last five years that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This, according to the agency, may signify that the system of accepting asylees into the country could be fraught with fraud and abuse.
In the USCIS press release, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna was quoted as saying that “Delays in the timely processing of asylum applications are detrimental to legitimate asylum seekers. Lingering backlogs can be exploited and used to undermine national security and the integrity of the asylum system.”
Human Rights First, a nonprofit and nonpartisan human rights organization, released a statement on the new scheduling system, arguing that such a change “will impose additional burdens and suffering on legitimate asylum seekers who have already waited years for their asylum interviews.”
According to Eleanor Ace, director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection program, while the agency’s asylum backlog is certainly a concerning, USCIS’ announcement says little about ensuring timely interviews for the many asylum seekers who have waited years for their interviews so they can bring their families to safety or take other steps to bring relief to themselves. She urged USCIS to weigh asylum cases based on the gravity of each given situation and shift their focus to pressing humanitarian needs instead of the recency of an application’s filing.
Human Rights First said the asylum office backlog is no coincidence, pointing out that the influx of asylum seekers is a result of increasing persecution and armed conflict around the world. According to Acer, this global predicament proves that the increase in asylees is not a matter of employment fraud.
“The disingenuous narrative USCIS paints of fraud and abuse in the asylum system is clearly exposed by the statement’s glaring failure to even acknowledge the regional refugee and displacement crisis that contributed to the uptick in legitimate asylum claims,” Acer said.
Other immigration advocates agree the asylum backlog puts the lives of those seeking refuge from persecution and violence abroad in jeopardy, but point out that the Trump administration’s decision would only force those who had sought asylum earlier to wait even longer.
If you, or a loved one, need assistance on your asylum application, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.