The Trump administration is considering a plan that would give Border Patrol agents the authority to decide some asylum claims on the spot, a source told the Washington Examiner.
The reported new plan would have Border Patrol officers trained to conduct "credible fear" interviews, which serve to screen the validity of an immigrant's claim to asylum. Immigrants must pass these interviews before they can officially file their asylum claim.
There is currently a huge backlog of asylum cases waiting to be heard — around 900,000 at the moment. There are fewer than 500 immigration judges in the U.S. Immigrants have to wait as many as five years to have their cases heard under the current system.
The goal behind authorizing Border Patrol agents to screen asylum claims in the field is that far fewer people will get to the point of waiting for a judge to hear their case, because invalid claims can be screened immediately.
The current system for immigrants claiming asylum is that they surrender to Border Patrol, get held in detention for up to 72 hours. A representative from U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services comes to hear their claim and conduct the "credible fear" interview once the immigrant is in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.
If they pass the interview, they can't be held by ICE more than 20 days, so they are released into the U.S. to wait for their case to be heard— if they even show up once summoned.
"Theoretically, we could end up deporting them in two weeks, rather than two to five years," the source said to the Washington Examiner.
Officials reportedly believe the administration does not need congressional approval for this change, but that doesn't mean it won't be challenged in the courts if implemented.