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New Asylum Rule: Migrants Have Just 4 Hours to Find a Lawyer Under Biden’s Ban

June 6, 2024




Migrants seeking protection in the United States are encountering a new set of challenges following President Joe Biden’s announcement of a near-total ban on asylum. Beginning Wednesday, those who cross into the U.S. illegally will have only four hours to secure legal representation if they hope to argue for an exception to the sweeping asylum restrictions announced by Biden on Tuesday.

Previously, migrants had at least 24 hours or more to find a lawyer. The new, stricter timeline was detailed in an email from John Lafferty, head of asylum at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), to the officers responsible for implementing Biden’s executive action, which has temporarily halted asylum requests at the border.

Despite the stringent new rules, there are still limited avenues for migrants to enter the country. Individuals who genuinely fear torture or persecution in their home countries can seek protection through programs other than asylum, though these programs impose much stricter eligibility criteria.

Critics argue that the four-hour limit is excessively restrictive and could prevent many from meeting the necessary legal standards. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, expressed concern: “Migrants who may have been exposed to severe trauma in the days before their encounter with U.S. officials should not be immediately forced into what could be the most important interview of their life without getting a meaningful chance to rest or get any help.”

An official from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), speaking on condition of anonymity, explained that the four-hour limit aims to expedite processing times in the overwhelmed immigration system. The official noted that the time limit is enforced only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., ensuring that those arriving at night will not be penalized if they cannot reach someone outside normal hours. Extensions will be granted only under “extraordinary circumstances,” the official added.

Biden’s new immigration policies come amid intense political pressure, including from within his own party, to address illegal migration more forcefully. With the presidential election just five months away, polls indicate that many Americans support strict enforcement at the southern border.

Former President Donald Trump, Biden’s Republican rival, has made illegal immigration a key focus of his campaign. During his presidency, Trump also sought to reduce the time migrants had to find a lawyer, but his efforts were struck down by a federal judge due to the unlawful appointment of the then-head of USCIS.

Critics accuse Biden of adopting Trump-like tactics, though administration officials insist the president is seeking to impose necessary order at a time when illegal border crossings are at record levels. The administration hopes these actions will help counter accusations from Trump and other Republicans that Biden and the Democrats are weak on border security.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced plans to challenge Biden’s executive action in court, adding another layer of legal and political complexity to the administration’s efforts to manage immigration at the southern border.






This report is based on information from the New York Times.

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