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Biden admin's new rule will let asylum officers, not just judges, decide if immigrants can stay in U.S.

The new rule is intended to shorten the time between an immigrant crossing the border and the ruling on whether they will be deported or allowed to stay in the U.S.

The Biden administration is issuing a new rule Thursday that will allow asylum officers, rather than just immigration court judges, to adjudicate the claims of immigrants seeking asylum at the border, according to officials with the departments of Homeland Security and Justice. 

The new process is part of an effort to shorten the time between when an immigrant crosses the border and the ruling on whether they should be deported or allowed to stay in the United States.

Under the new rule, if an asylum officer grants protections to an immigrant, the immigrant can remain in the U.S. and bypass immigration courts.

If an asylum officer decides an immigrant is not eligible for asylum, the case will go to an immigration judge who must decide within 90 days whether the immigrant should be deported.

Currently, immigration courts are backlogged with over 1.2 million cases, creating a two-year wait for most immigrants to receive a decision.

“The current system for handling asylum claims at our borders has long needed repair,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The administration has not yet decided how many immigrants will be able to use the new system, due to the limited number of available asylum officers, the officials said.

Migrants Cross From Mexico Into U.S. Near Ciudad Juarez
Asylum seekers walk past U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers while crossing into the United States from Mexico, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,on March 16, 2021.John Moore / Getty Images file

In July 2021, NBC News was first to report on plans to allow asylum officers to grant immigrants’ protections to stay in the U.S. 

At the time, the Biden administration was also considering a plan that would allow families crossing the border the right to legal counsel. But the final rule, to be published Thursday, makes no mention of that plan. 

The new rule will not apply to unaccompanied children, who are given special protections under U.S. immigration law.