Washington, D.C. — Fulfilling a request long pushed by President Trump and immigration hardliners in the administration, Border Patrol agents — rather than asylum officers — are now interviewing asylum seekers who express fear about returning to their home countries, immigration authorities confirmed to CBS News.
The move is part of a pilot program, and means that some migrants will not be initially interviewed by highly-trained asylum officers well-versed in U.S. and international refugee law, but by law enforcement agents from the agency that apprehended them. The Trump administration has advocated for this new role for Border Patrol, arguing that its agents would not approve as many “credible fear” interviews.
Attorneys and immigrant advocates have said these law enforcement officers should not be responsible for interviewing migrants seeking a safe haven in the U.S.
“They are fundamentally the wrong people to be conducting them,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council, told CBS News. “This is because the Border Patrol has a mission to apprehend and arrest and to take people into custody, and the job of screening someone for asylum needs to be done by someone from an agency whose job isn’t to deport people. It needs to be an independent decision from an agency without an incentive to send people back to their country quickly.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been running the pilot program for months. DHS oversees both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) asylum officers who have typically conducted credible fear interviews.
In statements to CBS News, both USCIS and CBP said a “whole-of-government approach” is needed to respond to the months-long surge of Central American migrants heading towards the southern border.
By Camilo Montoya-Galvez for CBS NEWS
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