Last week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they will schedule asylum interviews for recent applications ahead of older filings, in an effort to curb the growth of the agency’s asylum backlog. The agency is in charge of overseeing the country’s legal immigration system, such as adjudicating asylum claims.
Considered to be at a crisis level, USCIS currently faces a backlog of 311,000 pending asylum cases as of January 21, 2018. This backlog has increased by over 1750 percent over the last five years and the rate of new asylum applications has more than tripled.
“Delays in the timely processing of asylum applications are detrimental to legitimate asylum seekers,” stated USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “Lingering backlogs can be exploited and used to undermine national security and the integrity of the asylum system.”
To address the issue, the agency will follow these priorities when scheduling affirmative asylum interviews:
- Applications that were scheduled for an interview, but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or due to USCIS needs
- Applications pending 21 days or less since filing
- All other pending applications, starting with newer filings and working back toward older filings
First established by the asylum reforms of 1995 and used for 20 years until 2014, this priority approach aims to prevent those who might attempt to use the existing backlog as a means to obtain employment authorization. Returning to a “last in, first out” interview schedule will allow the agency to identify frivolous, fraudulent or otherwise false asylum claims earlier and place those individuals into removal proceedings.