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Trump Administration Expediting Initial Screenings of Asylum-Seekers

Migrants make their way to US-Mexico border to request asylum
Migrants make their way to US-Mexico border to request asylum

The Trump administration is gearing up to expedite initial screenings of immigrants seeking asylum, moving to interview immigrants within one calendar day.

Asylum officers usually wait about 48 hours to interview and hear the case of an immigrant who has been detained after crossing into the United States.

However, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli has directed officers to interview detained immigrant within one calendar day. The news site Buzzfeed, which said it had obtained a copy of the directive released to USCIS employees, first reported the policy change Monday.

VOA confirmed the report Monday night.

“As part of our efforts to make the expedited removal process more efficient and effective, USCIS is modifying the consultation period to better align with today’s operational realities,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) spokeswoman Jessica Collins told VOA.

Though Collins did not say when the new set of directives would begin, she said, "This will help make the entire expedited removal process more expeditious and help prevent bottlenecking in the system.”

The Buzzfeed report said advocates believe the move is expected to give “immigrants less time to prepare for their interviews or recover from dangerous journeys.”

The credible fear interview (CFI) is an initial screening where immigrants must show there is a compelling chance they will be persecuted or can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country, according to the USCIS .

“But by law, asylum-seekers have a right to ‘consult with a person or persons of [their] choosing’ before a CFI. Hard to do that within 24 hours,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council, shared on Twitter.

In the meantime, USCIS has updated their website to show the change.

“USCIS requires a wait of at least one full calendar day after the applicant arrives at the detention site before conducting the credible fear interview, in order to give the applicant time to contact a consultant,” the website shows -- a change from “USCIS requires a wait of at least 48 hours … in order to give the applicant time to recover from the journey."