Proposed changes to asylum regs could address biggest immigration problem: the court backlog
Nolan Rappaport, opinion contributor

The Trump administration has published a proposal to revise the regulations that govern the processing of applications for asylum and withholding of removal.

According to the administration, the proposed changeswould reduce the number of meritless claims, provide additional clarity for the adjudicators on issues commonly raised by asylum applications, and make the overall adjudicatory process more efficient. The proposal at page 36290 of the June 15 Federal Register.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Immigration Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) have called the proposed changes "abhorrent, un-American, and illegal.”

The Tahirih Justice Center claims that the administration’s objective is to overturn U.S. asylum law by making it effectively impossible for people fleeing persecution to obtain protection in the United States.

And according to Ur Jaddou, the Director of DHS Watch, “For three and a half years, the American asylum system has been dying a death of a thousand cuts, but this regulation is a guillotine.”

Their concern is misplaced.

The immigration court backlog crisis is the real threat to our asylum program, not the proposed regulations. The backlog was only 542,411 cases in January 2017, when President Donald Trump took office, and it has more than doubled since then. As of the end of April 2020, it was 1,166,085 cases.

The average wait for a hearing was two years.

Moreover, pressure to keep up with the ever-increasing backlog has resulted in having to hire more judges, some of whom did not have any immigration law experience.

The situation is hopeless unless major changes are made in the way asylum applications are processed.

Efforts are being made to make the immigration court more productive, but they aren’t even close to being adequate.

In fiscal 2019, the immigration court completed 275,552 cases, which was the second-highest completion total in its history — but at that rate even if the court stopped accepting new cases, which isn’t going to happen, it would take more than four years to clear the backlog.


Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1or at