WASHINGTON — The White House is working on plans to make it harder for immigrants at the border to receive asylum by forcing them to do more to prove they have a credible fear of returning home and putting border agents in charge of the interview process, according to multiple senior administration officials.
The potential changes are part of President Donald Trump’s overhaul of the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, asylum-seekers are interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers and only need to express a fear of persecution in their home country in order to pass the first step in the process.
Several of Trump’s top advisers have for months pushed outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to make such changes to the asylum process, officials said. Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller in particular has argued that Customs and Border Protection agents will be tougher on asylum-seekers and will pass fewer of them on the initial screening, known as a credible fear interview, the sources said.
The strategy is part of an overall crackdown on asylum-seekers that is designed to grant fewer of them access to the United States.
The administration has already tried to make it harder for asylum-seekers through a variety of measures, most of which have been stopped by courts, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy that makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexico until their scheduled court date in the U.S.
Currently, about 90 percent of asylum-seekers pass the credible fear interview, according to data from DHS, but only about 10 percent go on to be granted asylum by a judge. Due to a backlog in immigration courts, those who pass the initial interview live in the U.S., either in detention or at large, for months or years while waiting for their cases to be adjudicated.