US to speed up immigration cases of recent border crossers in new program

By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration will speed up the immigration court cases of some single adults caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border under a new program announced on Thursday, part of a broader effort to reduce illegal immigration in the run-up to Nov. 5 elections, senior administration officials said.

Single adults with court dates heading to five cities - Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City - could be placed in a "recent arrivals docket," senior administration officials said on a call with reporters. U.S. immigration judges will aim to resolve their claims for asylum in 180 days instead of a process that can now take years because of major backlogs, the officials said.

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, has toughened his approach to border security in recent months as immigration has emerged as a top voter concern. Biden's Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, has criticized Biden's approach and vowed to reinstitute hardline polices.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement urged Congress to pass a bipartisan Senate bill that would increase border enforcement.

"This administrative step is no substitute for the sweeping and much-needed changes that the bipartisan Senate bill would deliver," Mayorkas said.

Biden administration officials declined to say how many people could be placed in accelerated case processing, but at least 10 judges will initially be assigned to the new program, one official said.

The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed visa restrictions on more than 250 members of the Nicaraguan government and levied sanctions on three Nicaraguan entities in a move partly related to migrant smuggling through the Central American country.

The administration also intends to finalize a proposed regulation later this year that would allow asylum officers to quickly deny claims of migrants convicted of a serious crime, linked to terrorism or posing other dangers to public safety.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson; Editing by Mica Rosenberg, Leslie Adler and Daniel Wallis)