Fixes needed: Logistical changes can help improve immigration process

The Joe Biden administration once again has said it plans to end the migrant protection protocols, otherwise known as “remain in Mexico” policy, for refugees who are seeking asylum in the United States. Immediately upon taking office, Biden scrapped the policy enacted by Donald Trump, which denies entry into this country for refugees who are seeking asylum. Although the policy has been universally criticized as a violation of international law, a U.S. federal judge ordered that it be reinstated after new influxes of migrants further overwhelmed our border protection and immigration systems.

The problem was, as staff writer Valerie Gonzalez and The Associated Press reported this week, that dropped MPP without having anything to replace it. For someone who spent 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president, the fact that he apparently has no idea as to how to improve immigration policy is indefensible.

Obviously, the primary focus in the immigration debate regards changes that can make our system more efficient and fair, with good reason. Our quota-based system, which arbitrarily allows specific numbers of immigrants from every country, is woefully outdated and cumbersome.

Changing those policies requires legislation, and unfortunately Congress seems ill-inclined to tackle the issue — especially since it’s one of the favorite campaign topics for both major parties and apparently they’d rather not lose that topic by fixing it.

That isn’t the only problem, however. The actual system of processing immigration requests is inefficient and cumbersome. As our report noted, immigration cases on average take nearly four years to process.

We have long held that improving the process probably would increase trust in the system and reduce illegal immigration. We liken it to a person stranded at a red traffic light that won’t change late at night. At some point the driver decides he’s waited long enough, and drives through the light. Yes, he broke the law, but he saw no reasonable option.

Improvements can begin by allowing translators and legal aid at immigration hearings. Surely most hearings would be shorter and more fair if immigrants actually knew what was being said and understood the process.

It’s been clear since the first wave of young people started arriving from Central America in 2014 that our system was not equipped to handle large groups of refugees. Some have spent years in detention, children, including babies still in diapers, were separated from their families and still haven’t been reunited.

But the mass migrations could offer options. Large groups of migrants are coming from the same places — El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and most recently Haiti. They have similar backgrounds and similar stories. As petitions are processed, those that are alike could be placed together so that all migrants face the immigration judge together. Group adjudication could speed up the process, whether the petitions are accepted or denied.

Biden has hired immigration experts from previous administrations. We hope they are given free rein to use their experience to brainstorm ideas that can improve the immigration process and reduce the massive backlog of cases. Who knows — success there might inspire, or even shame, lawmakers into our immigration laws the attention they have needed for decades.


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