WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security has prepared new guidance for immigration agents aimed at speeding up deportations by denying asylum claims earlier in the process.
The new guidelines, contained in a draft memo dated February 17 but not yet sent to field offices, directs agents to only pass applicants who have a good chance of ultimately getting asylum, but does not give specific criteria for establishing credible fear of persecution if sent home.
The guidance instructs asylum officers to "elicit all relevant information" in determining whether an applicant has “credible fear” of persecution if returned home, the first obstacle faced by migrants on the US-Mexico border requesting asylum.
Three sources familiar with the drafting of the guidance said the goal of the new instructions is to raise the bar on initial screening.
The administration's plan is to leave wide discretion to asylum officers by allowing them to determine which applications have a "significant possibility" of being approved by an immigration court, the sources said.
The guidance was first reported and posted on the internet by McClatchy news organization.
In 2015, just 18 percent of asylum applicants whose cases were ruled on by immigration judges were granted asylum, according to the Justice Department. Applicants from countries with a high rate of political persecution have a higher chance of winning their asylum cases.
A tougher approach to asylum seekers would be an element of President Donald Trump's promise to crackdown on immigration and tighten border security, a cornerstone of his election campaign and a top priority of his first month in office.
The DHS declined to comment for this story, referring questions to the White House, which did not respond to a request for comment.