The Trump administration, looking for ways to alleviate the crush of asylum-seeking migrants at the United States’ southern border without being granted additional resources, is considering opening a series of “immigration courts” at key border checkpoints to speed the asylum process by offering quick adjudication of asylum claims.
CNN reports that the facilities would be “teleconference facilities,” and that asylum seekers at certain, heavily overcrowded border crossings would be offered the “express” immigration hearings.
At the moment, the United States is dealing with twin troubles in handling the influx of immigrants at the southern border: first, there are far more immigrants crossing into the United States — both seeking asylum at legal border crossings and attempting to illegally jump the border — than in previous years, and the number keeps increasing. In March, April, and May, the number of intercepted migrants, legal and illegal, topped 100,000.
Secondly, the United States is struggling with what to do with captured and detained migrants. For now, most are being kept in border patrol facilities for the maximum amount of time allowed by law, approximately 21 days if they are accompanied by minor children, and then given a court date and told to return before being set free into the United States.
While in custody, the migrants are given the choice to remain in United States’ custody and risk being sent home under the U.S.’s strict asylum policies, or return home right away. Most — if not nearly all — choose to wait for a hearing.
Last week, the Trump administration inked a deal with Mexico’s government to help ease some of the congestion at the border, winning several concessions from Mexico, including a provision that would require that some asylum seekers remain in Mexico pending their asylum hearings rather than in the United States. As part of the deal, Mexico also offered to increase security at its own southern border and offer more migrants the option of temporary Mexican visas and work permits.
In return, Mexico requested that the Trump administration find a way to make the asylum adjudication process faster and easier. The idea of teleconference hearings at designated asylum court facilities along the border appears to be a natural solution.
“Migrants who are sent to Mexico to await their court hearings return to the US through a port of entry along the southern border to then be transported to their hearing,” CNN reports. “The temporary courts would allow migrants to have their hearings near or at the port, rather than being bussed miles away, said the official.”
The new facilities would help alleviate some of the pressure on existing immigration courts along the border and would circumvent the need for more questionable solutions, like forcing officers of the Customs and Border Protection Agency to make the initial call as to whether a migrant, captured or presenting themselves at the border, qualifies for an asylum hearing.
It also takes advantage of a recent Trump administration victory in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the Trump administration is within its right to force some migrants to remain in Mexico. The United States government is not required to house and care for every migrant that legally requests asylum at an official border checkpoint.
The new idea, of course, has already drawn criticism, particularly from pro-immigrant groups that want to see the adjudication process all but abandoned and from Democrats who continue to refuse to acknowledge any problems along the United States border or fund any solutions.