ABILENE, Texas (AP) — Republican efforts to stop the Biden administration from changing how asylum claims on the U.S. border are handled widened Thursday as Texas and Arizona asked courts to block new procedures that could decide asylum cases in months, instead of years.
The lawsuits pile onto an already busy week over immigration policy. The U.S. Supreme Court is questioning a rule that forces some asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico, and a federal judge in Louisiana temporarily stopped the phaseout of asylum restrictions that were put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has the Biden administration defending planned changes to asylum programs on all fronts. Those now include new rules that would empower asylum officers to grant or deny claims — an authority that has been limited to immigration judges for people arriving at the border with Mexico.
Thirteen states, all with GOP governors or state attorneys general, joined Arizona in a lawsuit filed in Louisiana. Texas filed a similar challenge.
“This is nothing more than a radical attempt to set up a system that encourages illegal immigration and undermines the rule of law,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has said the new procedures will ease burdens on immigration courts, which are part of the Justice Department.
The Biden administration estimated last year that it would need to hire 800 more employees for asylum officers to handle about 75,000 cases a year. Without more money and new positions, it is unclear how much impact the move will have at first.
The United States has been the world’s most popular destination for asylum-seekers since 2017, according to the U.N. refugee agency, putting enormous strain on immigration courts. The court backlog has soared to nearly 1.7 million cases.
The states involved in the lawsuit have also sued to preserve o preserve so-called Title 42 authority, which denies migrants a chance at asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.