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USCIS changes asylum process and leaves thousands in limbo

New asylum seekers in Florida might have their cases heard by immigration authorities before people who have been waiting for years. A policy change by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services known as "last in, first out" was meant to reduce the backlog of asylum cases, but the case log has grown by 10,000 new applications since the the agency initiated the new approach. The switching of priorities has left many people who have already been in the country for years unable to make plans for the future because they might be deported eventually.

Existing asylum seekers have no idea when they might have hearings scheduled while USCIS focuses on reviewing new cases. A statement from the immigration agency justified the policy change as a way to deport people who make frivolous or fraudulent asylum claims as soon as possible.

Before asylum applications ballooned in recent years, asylum seekers expected to have their cases resolved within a few months. Now the wait time for a hearing has stretched to two to five years, and denials of asylum applications has increased significantly.

Once a person manages to apply for asylum, that person generally receives documentation to work in the country until a hearing determines whether they can stay permanently or be deported. An attorney experienced in U.S. immigration law could assist someone with the bureaucratic details of seeking asylum or applying for a visa. An attorney could strive to compile sufficient documentation to support a person's request. Violations of an applicant's legal rights by immigration officials might also be challenged by an attorney so that the person receives a fair hearing.

Source: PRI, "Last in, first out: Policy change moves longtime US asylum-seekers to back of the line", Tania Karas, Jan. 4, 2019

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