Over the past month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established a new set of policies designed to shuffle asylum-seekers through the credible fear screening process without regard for basic due process. Credible fear was established in law to provide an essential check against expeditiously removing people to countries where there is a significant possibility that they will be persecuted or tortured.
Under these policies—the Prompt Asylum Claim Review program and the Humanitarian Asylum Review Process—asylum-seekers are detained in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities, rather than U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, unless and until they can establish a credible fear of persecution. As a practical matter, this means that asylum-seekers who are not turned back to dangerous conditions in Mexico or dumped in Guatemala or Honduras are instead being forced to prepare for an interview with an asylum officer—or a Border Patrol agent—and a follow-up hearing before an immigration judge from inside a bare-bones and often-crowded CBP holding cell, with little or no opportunity to consult with an attorney.
By eliminating the most basic procedural protections necessary to make this a meaningful and reliable review, including the ability to consult with counsel, the department has undermined the very purpose behind the credible fear process established by Congress nearly 25 years ago. Taken together, the Trump administration’s policies have effectively eviscerated asylum protections for people who lack the money or privilege to fly into the United States and enter on a visa or through some other means.
For more on how to reframe the immigration debate, see CAP’s report: “Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System.”