The Trump administration has been quietly testing a new program to speed up the deportation of asylum-seekers who fail to qualify to remain in the U.S.
The Prompt Asylum Claim Review would allow migrants who fail to meet the requirements for asylum protection to be deported back to their home countries in 10 days or less, rather than the months or years such cases routinely take currently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told the Washington Post on Thursday.
The new process is currently being tested in El Paso, where migrants seeking asylum are detained in a 1,500-bed holding facility and are only allowed to speak to lawyers by phone.
Immigration advocates have pushed back on the program, saying the expedited deportation denies migrants due process.
“This is yet another example of Border Patrol carrying out a pilot project in secret, circumventing Congress and public scrutiny,” a representative for the American Civil Liberties Union said, citing Border Patrol’s “track record of abuse.”
The administration has attempted to expedite the deportation process through other measures as well, including a “safe third country” policy with several Central American countries, which allows border authorities to turn away asylum seekers who have passed through those countries without attempting to obtain asylum there first. The Supreme Court ruled in September that the policy could be implemented as federal courts continue to determine its legality.
More than 850,000 migrants were apprehended crossing the southern border illegally in fiscal year 2019. A record-shattering 420,000 were part of family units, many of which were fleeing violence in Central American countries. Arrests peaked in May, when more than 132,000 migrants were caught crossing illegally.
Apprehensions have tapered off as the warmer months, when more migrants attempt the journey northward, have drawn to a close. Just over 52,000 individuals were taken into custody in September.