Texas AG sues Biden administration over proposal that would revamp asylum process

As the state of Texas launches a new legal challenge to the Biden administration’s border policies, some groups say Attorney General Ken Paxton does not fully understand the president’s proposed changes to the legal asylum process.

But these immigrant rights and legal groups aren’t necessarily in tune with the White House and have their own concerns about the policy changes Paxton is asking to stop.

Paxton filed a lawsuit on Thursday to block a sweeping change to asylum procedures announced by the Biden administration in March and set to take effect at the end of May. This would allow trained asylum officers to adjudicate certain asylum cases instead of them being processed through US immigration courts. The change is intended not only to speed up some cases, but also to reduce the record backlog of pending asylum claims. There are currently more than 671,000 asylum claims pending in US courts, including about 67,500 in Texas, according to data compiled by researchers at Syracuse University’s Transactional Research Access Clearinghouse.

Under the plan, some asylum seekers could be paroled pending the outcome of their cases, a decision that Paxton says will encourage people to enter the United States illegally.

“The last thing Texas needs is for this administration to make it easier for illegal aliens to enter the United States and gain asylum through misrepresentation and less oversight,” Paxton said in a statement. . “We know what will happen when the rule comes into force in May 2022: wave after wave of illegal aliens seeking asylum.”

Paxton alleges in the lawsuit, which was filed in Amarillo, that Texas will suffer “irreparable harm” if allowed.

“Texas spends significant sums to provide services to illegal aliens due to the United States government’s failure to enforce federal law,” the complaint states. “These services include education and health services, as well as many other social services.”

Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways, a Texas-based organization that provides legal services to low-income immigrants, told The Texas Newsroom that Paxton’s “loophole” argument is somewhat misplaced.

“Paxton’s assertion that this is a loophole that takes away the power and authority to grant asylum from immigration judges and gives it only to asylum officers is not not totally correct,” Yang said. “There is authority given to asylum officers, but the ultimate authority in these cases under review rests with immigration courts and immigration judges.”

Yang added that under current policy, some asylum offices are already accepting and deciding on requests for assistance if a person is not in the removal process.

Although Yang credited Biden with trying to unclog the backlog in a way that still allows a refugee claimant to legally apply for help, she said there are concerns about whether a claimant would be able to provide enough information to the government as part of the plan.

“What we advocate for and what I believe many people in this country believe in is this idea of ​​justice and the ability of individuals to effectively access the justice system while having their rights protected. The administration is trying to do this, it remains to be seen if this is the most effective way,” she said. “I think there are due process issues because of the lack of asylum, where there are issues of accurate interpretation that are going to happen, [and] the possibility for individuals to obtain corroborating evidence because they are detained. We have some concerns about this.

Fernando Garcia, executive director of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights, said his apprehension about the policy stems from a longstanding mistrust of border guards and law enforcement officers.

“I don’t believe they make the decision in the best interest of the petitioner. I think they have a powerful tool to accept or reject asylum applications,” he said. Asylum is a detailed and complicated process, he added, he is concerned that claimants do not have a lawyer or counsellor.

“Because they are trying to fast track these kinds of asylum cases at the border, many of these petitioners will not have access to proper legal representation and proper legal advice,” he said. “We might have people going through this fast-track asylum procedure only to be turned down and deported quickly.”

Regarding Paxton’s trial, Garcia added that he was perfectly normal for a politically motivated attorney general.

“Unfortunately [Paxton] represented a more anti-immigrant and refugee stance than anything else,” Garcia said.

It’s this rhetoric that leads some asylum seekers to rely on criminal elements to get to the United States instead of seeking help from established organizations, said Juanita Molina, executive director of the Border Action Network. .

“There is no way to ignore the criminal organizations that move things along the border and I think our American policies – and in particular the increased restrictions on people crossing into the United States and the criminalization of ‘a very human process of people seeking security – is what creates and strengthens cartels all along the border,’ she told The Texas Newsroom. “It’s like feeding wolves meat. People know that the longer you maintain a vulnerable population, the more invisible they are [they are].”

Joseph Leahy of Texas Newsroom contributed to this story.

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