Biden wants to speed up backlog of migrant asylum seekers in blue cities as Dem pressure builds

The Biden administration is moving to resolve asylum cases more quickly in five major U.S. cities — as it continues to face heat from mayors and local officials over the effects of the ongoing crisis at the southern border.

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced a “Recent Arrivals (RA) Docket process” which it says will allow them to resolve cases of illegal immigrant single adults more quickly. 

The administration said in a statement that it will allow it to more swiftly deport those without valid asylum claims, or to grant relief and protection to those who do. Currently, the wait time for asylum cases can be up to seven years, due to the enormous backlog for the immigration courts. That backlog has skyrocketed in recent years.

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The docket will operate in five cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, and the aim will be to prioritize cases and aim to decide cases within six months, although specific circumstances could change that.

The administration says the new process will help, but that ultimately it needs funding and fixes for a “broken” system from Congress.

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“Today, we are instituting with the Department of Justice a process to accelerate asylum proceedings so that individuals who do not qualify for relief can be removed more quickly and those who do qualify can achieve protection sooner,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “This administrative step is no substitute for the sweeping and much-needed changes that the bipartisan Senate bill would deliver, but in the absence of Congressional action we will do what we can to most effectively enforce the law and discourage irregular migration.”

An accompanying rule will codify the process and standards, allowing immigration judges to expedite cases more quickly. 

The Biden administration has been facing continued pressure from cities, including Chicago and New York, where Democratic officials have demanded the federal government do more to help them with the numbers they are seeing.

Mayors have demanded $5 billion in funding, in addition to expedited processes to allow migrants to work and a national resettlement strategy.

“We are at an untenable situation right now, and it is painful for us. It’s painful for the city,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in December. “And I think that you see it being reflected in the polls. It is because our federal government’s actions have taken a toll on the people of this city.”

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“We need the president to extend the same economic opportunities long term for our undocumented brothers and sisters, so they can build a better life here in the city of Chicago or wherever else they decide to live,” Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said in April.

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Mayorkas on Friday acknowledged that “several million” migrants had come into the U.S. under the Biden administration, but blamed it on hemispheric conditions and that broken system.

Adams, meanwhile, caused controversy last week by calling for migrants to be allowed to work as lifeguards, saying that some are “excellent swimmers.” His office noted that there have been more than 197,000 arrivals since 2022 and said that “there is nothing more un-American than not allowing someone to work.”

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