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What Will Happen If Trump Speeds Up the Asylum Process?

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Migrants walk after crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico at the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas, on June 27th, 2019. This is an area where asylum seekers frequently turn themselves in after crossing the border.

A new policy out of the Trump administration will speed up the asylum process. The procedural change, first reported by BuzzFeed News, will remove the 48-hour waiting period asylum seekers used to have before their initial asylum screenings.

A spokesperson for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services told BuzzFeed that the change is intended to make the process “more efficient and effective.” But advocates have raised the alarm that speeding up the process could mean that people who have viable asylum claims might nonetheless be returned to their home countries.

“This move is clearly aimed at preventing people seeking asylum from conferring with attorneys—something we know dramatically increases a refugee’s chance of winning asylum,” Eleanor Acer, the senior director of refugee protection at the advocacy organization Human Rights First, said in a statement.

In the past, when asylum seekers were first placed in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention, they had 48 hours before what’s called a “credible fear” interview. This interview is one of the most important parts of the asylum process: An asylum officer asks questions to try to see if a person has a plausible asylum claim. If an asylum seeker passes the interview, she’s given a court date, and she moves on to the next stage of the process. But failing the interview carries serious consequences—in that case, the asylum seeker is placed in a streamlined deportation process, with little opportunity to appeal.

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