The federal agency tasked with overseeing applications for asylum in the U.S. is changing its policy so that it will now review the most recent applications first, hoping to chip away at its extensive backlog.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced Wednesday that it now faces a "crisis-level backlog" of 311,000 asylum applications and will implement the new policy to guard against "fraud and abuse."
“Lingering backlogs can be exploited and used to undermine national security and the integrity of the asylum system, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said in a statement.
The decision comes after Trump administration officials, including Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE, criticized the U.S. asylum process. The latest move reverses a policy put in place under former President Obama, which aimed to prioritize older asylum applications.
"This 'last in, first out' approach will help deter those who might try to use the existing backlog as a means to obtain employment authorization," USCIS tweeted Wednesday.
This “last in, first out” approach will help deter those who might try to use the existing backlog as a means to obtain employment authorization. https://t.co/0bWlXpYIgT— USCIS (@USCIS) January 31, 2018
The most recent search in asylum applications is a result of people seeking to enter the U.S. from the southern border, according to Reuters.
The Trump administration has aimed to carry out a massive crackdown on illegal immigration over its first year and has proposed building a wall along the border to keep migrants out. The president in September also rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and gave Congress a March 5 deadline to replace it. Republicans and Democrats remain at loggerheads over how to reach a deal.