The New Border Asylum Adjudication System: Speed, Fairness, and the Representation Problem
59 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2022 Last revised: 28 Nov 2022
Date Written: September 29, 2022
In 2022, the Biden administration implemented what the New York Times has described as potentially “the most sweeping change to the asylum process in a quarter-century.” This new adjudication system creates unrealistically short deadlines for asylum seekers who arrive over the southern border, the vast majority of whom are people of color. Rather than providing a fair opportunity for those seeking safety to explain and corroborate their persecution claims, the new system imposes unreasonably speedy time frames to enable swift adjudications. Asylum seekers must obtain representation very quickly even though the government does not fund counsel and not enough lawyers offer free or low-cost representation. Moreover, the immigration statute requires that asylum seekers must corroborate their claims with extrinsic evidence if the adjudicator thinks that such evidence is available – a nearly impossible task in the time frames provided by the new rule. As a result, the new rule clashes with every state’s Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 and 1.3, imposing duties of competence and diligence in every case that a lawyer undertakes. It will be extremely difficult for lawyers to provide competent and diligent representation under the new, excessively short deadlines. For immigration lawyers, the new rule exacerbates a challenge that they share with public defenders and other lawyers working within dysfunctional systems: how to provide even the most basic level of procedural due process for their clients, most of whom are people of color.
This article begins by describing the regular asylum process. It then summarizes the history of expedited removal, a screening system that limits access to that process for asylum seekers who arrive at the southern U.S. border without visas. It then explains and assesses the Biden administration’s first and second versions of the new asylum rule, highlighting the major flaw that will make the current version an unfairly formidable hurdle for asylum seekers subject to it. The article concludes by setting out a way for the Biden administration to create a more fair, accurate and efficient border asylum adjudication system and ensure that the U.S. can comply with domestic and international refugee law.
Keywords: Asylum, Asylum adjudication, Asylum process, Expedited removal, Immigration, Legal ethics, Due process, Administrative law
JEL Classification: K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation