Citing ‘Systemic Due Process Barriers,’ Human & Immigrant Rights Groups Call on Pres. Biden to Immediately Stop Conducting Credible Fear Interviews in CBP Custody

Groups urge the Biden administration to ensure that asylum seekers are given full and fair access to the U.S. asylum system, including meaningful access to counsel 

June 6, 2023 
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Washington D.C. – One hundred and twelve civil, human rights, faith-based, and immigration groups sent a letter to the Biden administration to condemn the return to a Trump-era policy of forcing asylum seekers to explain by phone the life-threatening harms they’re fleeing while being held in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention. Since taking effect, President Biden’s iteration of this policy has produced systemic due process barriers, with asylum seekers being rushed through Credible Fear Interviews (CFIs) and immigration judge reviews with little to no access to counsel, essentially cutting people off from legal help and leading to the quick deportation of individuals who may qualify for protection in the U.S. 

“The administration’s policy of conducting critical asylum screening interviews while an individual is detained in CBP custody, with only 24 hours to attempt to consult with an attorney, is contrary to any notion of due process,” said Cindy Woods, National Policy Counsel at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “We have spoken to individuals who had no access to a telephone until after their credible fear claim had already been denied, and our attempts to represent asylum seekers during their credible fear interviews have been ignored by the Asylum Office. As designed and implemented, this process is fundamentally flawed and must be ended immediately to ensure asylum seekers have access to life-saving protections.” 

“Conducting fast-track credible fear interviews in CBP jails within days of arrival for refugees who have fled persecution and torture, with little to no access to attorneys, only escalates the due process nightmare of expedited removal,” said Rebecca Gendelman, Senior Research and Policy Counsel at Human Rights First and author of Human Rights First’s August 2022 report on expedited removal. “The administration is also wielding the asylum ban against refugees in these sham interviews to summarily deport refugees regardless of their eligibility for protection under U.S. law. Rather than implementing new iterations of Trump-era policies, the Biden administration should uphold U.S. asylum law and ensure meaningful, accurate, and fair asylum adjudications.” 

“This rapid deportation program tramples basic principles of fairness and humanity during fear screenings, said Azadeh Erfani, Senior Policy Analyst at the National Immigrant Justice Center. People need time to prepare their case with their attorneys. Instead, this program rushes them through rapid-fire screenings and hearings, with scant opportunity to consult with or secure the presence of their attorneys. Even worse, this program normalizes the jailing of asylum seekers in the same place that killed an 8-year-old child just last month—Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez. Simply put, there is no justification for the cruelty the Biden administration chooses to inflict on asylum seekers.” 

Forcing asylum seekers in CBP detention to proceed with their CFIs while facing nearly insurmountable barriers to legal counsel–while also subjecting them to an asylum banis, according to signatories, “An evisceration of our asylum system.” The letter calls on President Biden to stand by his commitment to strengthen the U.S. asylum system and make seeking asylum a true option for people and families who need it.