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Pilot program aims to fast-track asylum cases at the southern border

The Trump administration has begun a pilot program in El Paso, Texas, aimed at speeding up the time it takes to adjudicate asylum cases, according to two Department of Homeland Security officials.

The program, dubbed “Prompt Asylum Claim Review,” gives migrants who have crossed the US-Mexico border and are arrested by Border Patrol one day to call an attorney or otherwise prepare their cases before going before an immigration judge, said one official.

Currently, asylum officers conduct an interview wherein officers will decide whether an individual has a “credible fear of persecution” that could make them eligible for asylum in the United States. If an individual is found to have a credible claim, the individual is put into immigration proceedings, where a judge will eventually make the final determination.

The pilot program in El Paso accelerates that process.

The Washington Post first reported the El Paso program, saying it will result in decisions in 10 days or fewer.

The Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, which oversees the nation’s immigration courts, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The expedited process is in line with the administration’s efforts to curtail the flow of asylum seekers to the United States. CNN reported this week that the US is also close to implementing an agreement with Guatemala that would transfer asylum seekers to that country.

Officials are using the El Paso pilot, which began a couple of weeks ago, to determine how quickly the process can move, added the official.

In September, advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging a move by US Citizenship and Immigration Services to decrease the time asylum seekers have to prepare for their credible fear interviews.

Until recently, asylum seekers were generally given “48 hours from the time they received notice of their interview or from the time of arrival” to prepare for their interviews. That has been reduced to a “full calendar day,” according to the lawsuit.

Advocates were quick to object to the El Paso pilot Thursday.

“Not only are families subject to inhumane conditions, CBP prohibits lawyers from entering its detention facilities. Without access to legal counsel or even a confidential space to share their traumatic stories with an asylum officer, asylum seekers are set up to fail,” Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said in a statement, referring to Customs and Border Protection.

CNN