Fact Finders: What happens next when immigrants arrive at the border?

Published: May. 12, 2023 at 2:50 PM MST|Updated: May. 12, 2023 at 2:58 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The Biden Administration rolled out sweeping rules ordering migrants seeking asylum to prove they asked for protection in a third country first. Now, a judge’s ruling temporarily keeps them from being released into the U.S. before they have their court date.

The new move for what the administration calls “swift removal of those who fail to use lawful pathways” includes a large portion of asylum seekers. When people present themselves at the border, under pre-pandemic “normal” circumstances (Title 8), they used to fall into two categories: those who can prove a credible fear and can apply for asylum - and those whose claim is rejected and they are returned.

“Having a legal pathway to even apply - not that you will get it - if the case is not meritorious, you won’t get it - but just the ability to apply in an orderly way is all that our constitution requires, that our international treaties require,” said Efrén C. Olivares with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project.

What’s different now is a third layer: the administration is turning away anyone who didn’t first apply online, which, could be difficult for most to access - or who didn’t seek asylum in a country they travelled through first. In order to get assigned an asylum court date, a person must first be deemed to have a credible fear in their home country, as well as in a second country. That credible fear might include something like a police report, a documented threat, even a scar or medical record.

“But in practice, whether folks will be able to articulate the reason why they didn’t apply for asylum in Mexico and provide evidence to support that, to what’s called in legal terms, “overcome that presumption,” is so difficult in practice that the vast majority of people will not be able to overcome that presumption and will be deemed ineligible,” Olivares said.

As for people who get caught crossing illegally (without presenting to border authorities), there are also new penalties, where there weren’t really before: They cannot return for at least five years, and they face prosecution if they do. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing over the new rules, saying they break with U.S. and international law and put vulnerable migrants in harm’s way.

Those who meet this list of requirements and do obtain a court date will be released, but will need to check in regularly with ICE after getting established, most with a sponsor relative or friend.

”Once they get there, they don’t have a work permit, so they can’t work. they’re staying with family or friends until their court date, at which point they’ll present their case with evidence or witnesses or whatever the case may be,” Olivares said.

That court date is usually a year out or more. The administration’s goal is to speed it up - and soon.

Watch our Web Extra with Olivares on who can enter the U.S. legally.