Applicants Seeking Asylum Being Processed Quicker

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WESLACO – Immigrants applying for asylum are being processed quicker. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is changing its methods.

A majority of immigrants who entered the country illegally are getting lawful permission to work in the U.S. The USCIS points to its present backlog as the reason it’s led to a rise in fraudulent cases.

Processes within the USCIS agency are multistep.

Some cases resemble that of Jose Duarte’s. He entered the country illegally claiming asylum.

“The situation continues worsening. In San Pedro, which is where I worked, you're constantly worrying about MS-13 gangs,” said Duarte.

His process is underway now that he’s filed an application.

“That’s the first step, is to get them that interview, and there's a backlog for that interview,” said Arwen FitzGerald.

More than 300,000 applicants are backlogged nationwide. Its lead to a two to three year wait for step one – the interview.

This is where USCIS officers determine if the applicant has credible fear to qualify for asylum.

“If they’re denied for credible fear, then their asylum case isn't warranted and then we'll return them to their home country. But if they do have credible fear then we'll continue with the asylum process,” explained FitzGerald.

Credible fear varies by case. For Duarte, he says MS-13 gang members threatened and his son everyday life. His son is 17. He’s a prime target for MS-13 gang recruiting.

“They’ll kill you, even if it’s just to take your money,” said Duarte.

Current policy states if Duarte waits 120 days for his asylum case, he’ll be eligible for an employment authorization. It means he’s cleared to work in the United States.

Many applicants know the way the system works.

“That has led to people kind of putting in fraudulent asylum cases because then they know that they can have at least 2-3 years of working here legally before their case is even looked at,” said FitzGerald.

To decrease fraudulent cases USCIS is returning to a familiar method.

“Back in the 90s, it was a process that we did and then we changed it to the current process and now we’re changing it back,” said FitzGerald.

They’re speeding up the first step.

“Take the first applicants in, take those applications and then interview them right away,” FitzGerald said.

USCIS hopes this will decrease the backlog and fraudulent cases to get to those who really need help asylum.

A local attorney tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS she’s noticed the speed up.

Recent asylum applicants at her office are waiting about a month and a half for their interview versus some pending applicants who have waited for over a year.

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