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A new report by attorneys at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) who have been working to provide legal services to people who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum finds that Biden’s expedited removal process continues to obstruct legal access for people facing their credible fear screenings in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. 

In April, the Biden administration rolled out the expedited processing program as one of a number of new immigration policies as it prepared for the end of Title 42. Thousands of asylum seekers have since undergone credible fear interviews, the initial screening which decides whether a person will have access to the asylum process, while in CBP detention. 

“Forcing people seeking asylum through credible fear interviews in CBP custody is cruel,” said Lee VanderLinden, supervising attorney at NIJC. “Detaining those who come to seek safety is wrong. Curtailing an already restrictive process and treating asylum screening like a deportation machine is wrong.” 

After conducting 23 telephonic legal consultations over six weeks, NIJC attorneys report that they continue to “experience obstacles at every turn as they try to provide consultations and representation to people undergoing this expedited process while navigating the harmful new asylum ban that NIJC and other immigration advocates are challenging in federal court.” The new report updates findings of NIJC’s first report on the program in May.

“One person I represented had been held in CBP custody for two weeks before she spoke with an asylum officer,” said VanderLinden. “During that time, she was denied medical attention despite asking for treatment for her anxiety. She has since been deported, but the government has not told me or her mother to where she was deported.”

NIJC findings summarize that:

  1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services failed to notify NIJC attorneys of their clients’ scheduled fear interviews. 
  2. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) failed to notify NIJC attorneys when their clients were scheduled for immigration judge review after failing their CFIs.
  3. CBP regularly refuses to cooperate with attorneys to obtain their clients’ signatures for representation as required by USCIS’s “wet signature” rule.
  4. In some cases, CBP has fully denied access to consultations prior to CFIs.
  5. CBP continues to deny access to pen and paper for people to take notes during their legal consultations.
  6. DHS is subjecting people with specific vulnerabilities and past trauma to expedited processing in CBP custody.
  7. Due process violations of rapid processing are compounded by the asylum ban.
  8. People seeking asylum are spending weeks in dangerous CBP jails, where most are unable to connect with legal services.

Read the full report: Obstructed Legal Access: June 2023 Update