US asylum change aims to speed up some rejections at Mexico border

By Thomson Reuters May 9, 2024 | 3:18 PM

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A new U.S. asylum change proposed on Thursday aims to more quickly reject asylum seekers caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border if they pose certain criminal and national security concerns, a limited move to cut down on crossings.

A proposed regulation would allow asylum officers to deny claims of migrants when there is evidence they should be barred on those grounds, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a press release. The rejections could take place in days instead of a process that can take years, DHS said.

Reuters and other outlets reported the plans on Wednesday.

The measure will be limited in scope, potentially applying to thousands of asylum seekers per year, sources told Reuters. That would be a fraction of the 1 million caught crossing illegally from Oct. 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024.

A DHS official on a call with reporters declined to offer an estimate of how many asylum seekers could be rejected under the proposal.

“We don’t think that the rule will apply to large numbers of people, but it will apply to the people we are most concerned about,” the official said.

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, took office in 2021 promising a more humane approach to border security compared to his predecessor Former President Donald Trump, an immigration hardliner.

Biden has toughened his approach to border security in recent months as immigration has emerged as a top concern among voting-age Americans. Trump, a Republican, is challenging Biden in the election and has criticized his administration for reversing some restrictive border policies.

The Biden administration has weighed using executive action to block many asylum seekers at the border if crossings reach a certain level but has not yet taken that step.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Mica Rosenberg and Alistair Bell)