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U.S. announces new rule to empower asylum officials to reject more migrants earlier in process

White House announces new asylum regulation
U.S. empowers asylum officials to reject migrants earlier in process 04:24

The Biden administration announced a new regulation Thursday aimed at allowing immigration officials to more quickly identify and deport migrants who are ineligible for U.S. asylum earlier in the process.

The regulation by the Department of Homeland Security would apply to migrants who ask for asylum after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. CBS News reported the administration's plans earlier this week. At this point, as a proposed regulation, it must go through a public comment period before taking effect.

It would instruct government asylum officers to apply certain barriers to asylum that are already part of U.S. law during so-called credible fear interviews, the first step in the years-long asylum process. Those who pass these interviews are allowed to seek asylum before an immigration judge, while those who fail them can be deported expeditiously.

On a call with reporters, a senior homeland security official said this would affect migrants who pose "significant threats" to public safety and national security, such as suspected terrorists. These are migrants "we are very concerned about," the official said, but the size of the population is "limited."

Migrants barred under U.S. law from asylum include those who may pose a danger to public safety or national security. The rule would allow officials to reject and deport migrants in these categories soon after they cross the border. 

Separately, DHS also issued new guidance Thursday to asylum officers instructing them to disqualify migrants from asylum earlier on in the immigration process if they are able to relocate to other parts of their home country where they may be safe.  

The new regulation, which is relatively narrow in scope, is one of several actions the Biden administration has been considering to restrict access to the U.S. asylum system amid a spike in applications in recent years, mostly driven by migrants crossing the southern border illegally.

Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. demonstrate on the Rio Grande river to ask for authorization to enter the country, as seen from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on April 25, 2024.
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. demonstrate on the Rio Grande river to ask for authorization to enter the country, as seen from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on April 25, 2024. HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is also considering invoking a sweeping presidential authority to enact a broader restriction on asylum ahead of the election in November, sources with knowledge of the deliberations told CBS News. The authority, known as 212(f), allows presidents to suspend the entry of migrants whose arrival is deemed to be detrimental to U.S. interests. Former President Donald Trump invoked the law to justify several immigration restrictions, including a travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries.

While the newly announced regulation will not affect massive numbers of migrants, it still reinforces a policy shift by Mr. Biden, who earlier in his presidency promised to "restore" the U.S. asylum system. 

But after record levels of migrant apprehensions along the southern border, including over 2 million in each of the past two years, and an accompanying political backlash, Mr. Biden's administration has enacted and floated more restrictive asylum rules.

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