Biden’s Team Warned That He Won’t Be Able To Change All Of Trump’s Immigration Policies Overnight

The presidential transition team laid out several priorities, such as revising who can make an asylum claim first and ending what they call artificial capacity limits that restrict how many immigrants can be processed at the border.

President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration warned Tuesday that any transformational changes to the immigration system won’t happen overnight, trying to temper expectations that a Democrat in the White House would quickly unravel the Trump administration’s years of hardline and chaotic policies.

Transition officials did, however, discuss plans to change procedures for those seeking asylum at the southern border. The incoming administration said it wants to identify the most vulnerable immigrants and process their claims first — instead of on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The change is as part of the Biden team’s plan to rethink asylum processing altogether, transition officials said on a call with reporters.

“The goal is to change the way people are greeted at the border, to make the process more efficient, to make it more fair, to make it more humane,” a Biden transition official said. “This means enabling asylum officers to adjudicate claims so that asylum-seekers aren’t tied up in court proceedings for years.”

The Trump administration’s severe restrictions placed on immigrants — and all of the policy, staffing, and logistical changes that come with that — means the system will need to be put back in place carefully, a Biden transition official said.

“It’s an enormous challenge, really, because the current administration broke so many things,” a transition official said.

The Trump administration issued an order, citing the pandemic, that effectively blocks most immigrants from accessing the US immigration system. Before the pandemic, border officers would regulate how many immigrants were allowed to enter the US at official crossings to request asylum, a process known as queue management or “metering.”

A Biden transition official said the administration intends to end metering, which started under the Obama administration, because it artificially limits capacity, reduces access to the nation’s immigration system, and deters immigrants from seeking protection in the US. In October, a Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General report found that authorities in the US who turned away asylum-seekers at official border crossings told immigrants they didn’t have space to process them, regardless of whether they actually could.

Their plan is different from metering because the intent is to increase processing at the border and prioritize those who need the most protection, a Biden transition official said. The most vulnerable immigrants would be identified with the help of NGOs on the ground.

“Right now people are sleeping outside the ports of entry to maintain a place in line and it’s when we’re having a public health crisis. A terrible situation,” a Biden transition official said. “The plan is to partner with organizations in Mexico to make sure that we’re collaborating and effectively processing individuals who are waiting to present at the ports.”

The conversation with reporters came a day after Susan Rice, Biden’s choice to lead the Domestic Policy Council, and Jake Sullivan, his pick for national security adviser, told the Spanish-language news agency EFE that it would take months to fully restore asylum processing at the border.

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Adolfo Flores and Hamed Aleaziz