Border Patrol (CBP) agents will be able to begin credible fear interviews with immigrants seeking asylum on the southern border of the United States, a task that was done exclusively by trained asylum officers of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
"USCIS continues to deploy additional staff to address the increase in credible fear claims while hiring additional asylum officers to keep pace with the immigration crisis on our southern border and the workload record," the spokeswoman told Univision News. from the agency, Jessica Collins, who said the measure is part of a pilot plan. However, he said, it is not all CBP agents who can conduct this process, only those who have been trained.
"USCIS provides training to Border Patrol agents so they can know the credible fear assessment process carefully, and like any officer conducting these interviews, demonstrate that you understand all applicable laws, regulations, policies and procedures before do interviews for themselves, "Collins reported.
Training programs – which are comparable to those received by USCIS asylum officers and which began in April – are carried out remotely but include weeks of in-person training focused on the issue of refuge and asylum, as well as the form to conduct the questions, and the detection and prosecution of fraud or national security problems. In addition, the agency says, before conducting interviews alone they accompany asylum officers in their own and practice taking notes and helping with paperwork.
"His first interviews will be observed by a supervisor of the Asylum Division," the agency said. However, USCIS explains, all credible fear considerations will be reviewed and signed by a supervising asylum officer before a final decision is made.
According to the newspaper LA Times, the first Border Patrol agents arrived last week at the South Texas Family Residential Center, known as Dilley, to continue their training on-site.
The credible fear interview takes place when an immigrant in deportation proceedings tells a CBP agent that he wants to apply for asylum, that he is afraid of persecution or torture or that he is afraid of returning to his country. If the asylum officer believes there is a credible fear of persecution or torture, he will pass the case to an immigration judge so that the asylum claim can be defended at a hearing.
The measure is part of President Donald Trump's plans to accelerate evaluations of asylum seekers at the border. Until now, USCIS asylum officers have carried out credible fear interviews 48 hours after the immigrant was arrested at the border by the Border Patrol (CBP). The new plans reported by media in July ensure that this requirement is intended to be met within 24 hours.
The decision responds, immigration officials say, to the high volume of Central American immigrants who are reaching the southern border in search of asylum. However, since June the figure has been falling steadily, something they attribute to the efforts of the Mexican government to stop the flow and the agreements they have reached with countries such as Guatemala and Honduras so that they can receive asylum seekers who have passed through its territory before arriving in the United States.
Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have criticized the measure by considering it "worrisome." They say that CBP is an agency in charge of enforcing the law and whose responsibilities are incompatible with the sensitivity and neutrality that a credible fear interview warrants: "Having a CBP officer conducting a credible fear interview is like having an officer in charge of making arrests sitting as if he were a judge. "
For ACLU, CBP officials could also interfere with the ability of asylum seekers to make their claims through "harassment, threats and misinformation."