The Trump administration is preparing to expand two controversial programs, which expedite the return of asylum seekers at the southern border.
Ken Cuccinelli, who serves as the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, told reporters Friday he expects the program to be operational along the entire border in early February.
The Prompt Asylum Claim Review (PACR) and the Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP) started as pilot programs in 2019 and are designed to quickly return Mexican and Central American asylum seekers suspected of having invalid claims.
The ACLU sued in December to stop both programs, citing concerns that asylum seekers weren’t given access to legal counsel under the expedited time frame for their removal.
“In flagrant disregard for our laws, the Trump administration is now forcing asylum seekers to plead their case while trapped in horrific Border Patrol facilities purposefully designed as legal black holes where people are held without any meaningful way of getting help from a lawyer,” Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, said at the time.
Previously, asylum applicants apprehended by Border Patrol would be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for longer-term detention while authorities considered their claims.
The Trump administration has attempted a variety of policy maneuvers aimed at deterring migrants from initiating asylum requests at the border.
In July of last year, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new rule barring Central Americans arriving at the southern border from seeking asylum in the U.S. unless they had first applied for asylum elsewhere.
Following swift legal action from immigrant advocates, the policy was temporarily blocked before the Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing it to continue as legal challenges work their way through the courts. The administration is currently awaiting a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of appeals.