McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — As the United States announced Thursday that it will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, the Biden administration also announced sweeping changes to its asylum screening procedures, which should make it faster for those who have a credible fear of returning to their country to remain in America.

The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, in a joint statement Thursday, said new rules will allow authorized asylum officers from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to screen migrant applicants who are subject to expedited removal from the United States. Those who assert a fear of prosecution or torture and pass a credible-fear screening will be allowed to remain.

USCIS is part of DHS and in doing so this rule takes away what has been the responsibility of U.S. immigration judges, who are part of the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which are under the DOJ.

This new rule comes as Congress earlier this month appropriated funds that will put USCIS officers alongside other border agents in permanent one-stop processing facilities that are to be built on the Southwest border.

The new rules are to take effect on May 28, which is 60 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. And it is unclear whether the administration at that time plans to lift Title 42, a public health law put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020 that prevents asylum seekers from entering the U.S. border due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the change announced Thursday was made to alleviate the backlog of U.S. immigration cases and to more quickly decide who meets the legal parameters to remain in the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks to reporters on May 7, 2021, at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection pop up processing facility in Donna, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“The current system for handling asylum claims at our borders has long needed repair,” Mayorkas said. “Through this rule, we are building a more functional and sensible asylum system to ensure that individuals who are eligible will receive protection more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be rapidly removed. We will process claims for asylum or other humanitarian protection in a timely and efficient manner while ensuring due process.”

“This rule advances our efforts to ensure that asylum claims are processed fairly, expeditiously, and consistent with due process,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “It will help reduce the burden on our immigration courts, protect the rights of those fleeing persecution and violence, and enable immigration judges to issue removal orders when appropriate. We look forward to receiving additional input from stakeholders and the public on this important rule.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, sais he is glad to see the Biden Administration taking “innovative measures” to address the massive immigration court backlog and to create an orderly asylum process at the southern border.

“I believe it is necessary to modernize every legal migration pathway, including our asylum system that far too often is the only legal pathway available to migrants,” Menedez said in a statement. “Nonetheless, this announced change must ensure the due process rights of asylum seekers are protected under this new rule. I hope this is only one of many actions the Administration will take to exercise all existing legal authorities to expand legal pathways into the United States and to build a more humane and inclusive immigration system.”

Currently, there is a backlog of over 1.7 million immigration cases that are waiting to be decided by U.S. immigration judges, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonprofit from Syracuse University, which tracks immigration cases.

(Graphic by TRAC)

So far in Fiscal Year 2022, which began Oct. 1, 344,604 new immigration cases have been added to the docket. However during that period, only 108,610 immigration cases were completed, TRAC reports in its latest data analysis, which includes cases through February.

And as a surge in migrants trying to cross the Southwest border continues at record levels, the chasm between completed and pending cases grows wider, court watchers tell Border Report.

TRAC researcher Austin Kocher welcomed the news on Thursday, telling Border Report this could help streamline asylum cases and better suit migrants.

“The Biden administration’s forthcoming rule on asylum claims to take the asylum process out of an adversarial court setting would give it to asylum officers who specialize in evaluating asylum claims. Not only could this provide some relief to immigration judges who face enormous court backlogs, but it would also adhere more closely to the letter and spirit of the Refugee Convention,” Kocher said.

The 1951 Refugee Convention helped nations to form protocols for defining refugees and outlining their rights.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent take information from migrants seeking asylum who crossed the border from Mexico into La Joya, Texas, on May 8, 2021. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

The new rules were announced Thursday just moments after Reuters reported the Biden administration will be accepting 100,000 Ukrainian refugees from the war-torn country.

Asylum seekers who do not pass the credible-fear interview by USCIS officers “will be referred for a removal proceeding before an immigration judge,” the joint statement said. “The rule establishes streamlined procedures for these removal proceedings, designed to promote efficient resolution of the case.”

Unaccompanied migrant children are not included in this new rule. This will only apply to individuals who are placed into expedited removal proceedings on or after May 28. And the rule is to be rolled out in phases beginning with a limited number of individuals and then expanded, Biden officials said.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at