Advocates call on Biden to end expedited removals they say deny asylum-seekers due process

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Victor Urisa Cabrera from Guatemala came with his daughter, Jaqueline Maria Urisa Reyes for a better life sin on an international bridge waiting for his asylum meeting on November 4, 2018 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Civil rights advocates plan to ask the White House to end a pair of Trump-era immigration policies that lead to the expedited removals of many asylum-seekers.

The Trump administration began using the controversial Prompt Asylum Claim Review (PACR) and the Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP), which opponents have told Border Report, deny asylum-seekers access to legal counsel when they’re screened by border authorities, and it often leads to quick deportation without granting them asylum claims or scheduling future court hearings.

According to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, under the expedited fear screening pilot programs — PACR for non-Mexican nationals and HARP for Mexican nationals — the Department of Homeland Security denied a majority of asylum claims (69%) between Oct. 2019 and March 2020.

Unless they indicated a fear of persecution or torture, fear of return to their country, or expressed an intent to apply for asylum during their fear screening process, individuals were removed from the U.S. without an immigration hearing.

In that period, DHS processed 5,290 individuals, according to the report. About 1,220 individuals (23%) received positive credible fear determinations, which meant they were granted an opportunity to apply for asylum. Asylum officers gave about 3,620 individuals negative fear determinations.

The ACLU of Texas and the national ACLU are calling on President Biden to end the immigration policy.

“This report proves what we have warned from the start … that asylum-seekers forced to go through the Trump administration’s pilot programs do not and will not have a meaningful opportunity to truly seek asylum in the United States,” said Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas.

The report also found that in order to expedite the fear screening process, rather than being transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), individuals for days remained in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) jail, something advocates say is “utterly unsuitable for this high-stakes process.”

Witness at the Border, which held nightly vigils calling for an end to the controversial “Wait in Mexico” policy, is also calling for an end to PACR and HARP as well.

Their plea comes a day before Biden is expected to issue several executive orders on immigration, including undoing the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which forces asylum-seekers to wait out the asylum process in Mexico, often in dangerous conditions in Mexico’s border towns.

When it was adopted in 2019, then DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen called it an unprecedented action that would address the urgent humanitarian and security crisis at the Southern border.

“This humanitarian approach will help to end the exploitation of our generous immigration laws,” Nielsen said. “The Migrant Protection Protocols represent a methodical commonsense approach, exercising long-standing statutory authority to help address the crisis at our Southern border.”

But advocates note that MPP trapped tens of thousands of asylum-seekers in some of “the most dangerous places on earth,” like Matamoros, Juarez, and Tijuana.

To date, several hundred people still live in squalor in an improvised refugee camp right across the border from Brownsville, Texas, where upwards of 3,000 people lived in tents when MPP started.

“We recognize the Biden administration’s dedication to dismantling the tragic legacies of the former administration’s anti-immigrant agenda—the criminalization of migrants, denial of asylum, indefinite detention, family separation, and expulsion of migrant families and children—all governed by the paradigm of ‘prevention through deterrence,'” Witness at the Border said in a statement

According to Reuters, the White House might push back the timeline on the immigration executive orders expected Friday.

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