U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced recently that the agency will schedule asylum interviews for recent applications ahead of older filings, in an attempt to stem the growth of the agency’s asylum backlog. The agency said it faces a “crisis-level backlog” of 311,000 pending asylum cases as of January 21, 2018, making the asylum system “increasingly vulnerable to fraud and abuse. This backlog has grown by more than 1750 percent over the last five years, and the rate of new asylum applications has more than tripled.”
To address this issue, USCIS said it will follow these priorities when scheduling affirmative asylum interviews:
- Applications that were scheduled for an interview but the interview had to be rescheduled at the applicant’s request or due to the needs of USCIS;
- Applications pending 21 days or fewer since filing; and
- All other pending applications, starting with newer filings and working back toward older filings.
Additionally, the Affirmative Asylum Bulletin issued by USCIS has been discontinued.
USCIS said this priority approach was used for 20 years until 2014, and “seeks to deter those who might try to use the existing backlog as a means to obtain employment authorization.” Returning to a “last in, first out” interview schedule will allow USCIS “to identify frivolous, fraudulent or otherwise non-meritorious asylum claims earlier and place those individuals into removal proceedings,” USCIS said.