The Biden Administration Must Immediately Stop Conducting Credible Fear Interviews in CBP Custody

The Honorable Alejandro N. Mayorkas
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
2707 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20528 

Ur M. Jaddou
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
5900 Capital Gateway Drive
Camp Springs, Maryland 20588

Troy A. Miller
Acting Commissioner
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20229 

David L. Neal
Executive Office for Immigration Review
5107 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041 

Dear Secretary Mayorkas, Director Jaddou, Acting Commissioner Miller, and Director Neal,

We, the undersigned 112 civil, human rights, faith-based, and immigration groups write to express our deep concern with your return to the Trump-era policy of forcing asylum seekers to explain by phone the life-threatening harms they’re fleeing mere hours after arriving in the U.S., while being held in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention, and essentially cut off from legal help. In March 2023, nearly 100 organizations reminded President Biden of his commitment to end the Trump policy, urging him not to rush back to the broken, anti-asylum policies that this administration rightly terminated. We are incredibly disappointed that this administration has chosen to move forward, full steam ahead. We call on the Biden administration to immediately cease conducting credible fear interviews (CFIs) in CBP custody and instead ensure that asylum seekers are given full and fair access to the U.S. asylum system, including meaningful access to counsel.

Since taking effect, President Biden’s iteration of this policy has produced systemic due process barriers similar to its predecessor policy, with asylum seekers being rushed through CFIs and immigration judge reviews with little to no access to counsel. President Biden’s asylum ban, another iteration of Trump-era policies, is further exacerbating these mass due process violations and fueling the systematic deportation of individuals who may qualify for protection in the U.S., in violation of the non-derogable principle of non-refoulement.  

The Biden administration is effectively denying asylum seekers any meaningful chance to consult with counsel and rushing them through a sham process to quickly deport them, including by:

  • Conducting CFIs shortly upon an individual’s arrival in CBP detention without providing or allowing them to access the time and resources needed to recover from their journey or the harm they survived;
  • Barring attorneys from entering the CBP facilities where asylum seekers are jailed and CFIs are conducted;
  • Truncating the minimum time period individuals have to attempt to telephonically consult with an attorney to a mere 24 hours after receiving notice of the credible fear process. This change is especially absurd given that new policies, such as the asylum ban and the return of certain nationalities to Mexico, expand the content about which an individual may need to consult an attorney;
  • Failing to provide asylum seekers hard copies of the M-444 Information About Credible Fear Interview in contravention of 8 CFR § 208.30(d)(2), hard copies of the list of pro bono legal service providers, and advanced written notice of the CFI;
  • Heightening the standard for requests to reschedule a CFI to a showing of “extraordinary circumstances,” likely making it nearly impossible for asylum seekers to reschedule a CFI in order to secure representation or prepare for the interview;
  • Restricting asylum seekers’ access to telephones, in contravention of 8 CFR § 208.30(d)(4), and denying them writing utensils, in effect forcing them to attempt to commit key information to memory, including their attorney’s contact information and information about the CFI process;
  • Requiring an applicant’s signature on the Form G-28 for attorneys to enter an appearance with the Asylum Office, which often cannot be timely obtained by attorneys who are remotely representing jailed clients, thereby obstructing their ability to obtain information about their clients;
  • Conducting CFIs, including outside of normal business hours and on weekends, without the attorney of record present, in contravention of 8 CFR § 208.30(d)(4);
  • Failing to provide advance written notice to attorneys of record prior to a scheduled CFI or immigration court review hearing, including by not updating the EOIR Cases and Appeals System (ECAS) to reflect upcoming court hearings;
  • Failing to afford individuals time and opportunity following negative fear determinations to consult with counsel who could advise them about their rights and the review process;
  • Failing to serve asylum seekers and their attorneys with their record of credible fear determinations in contravention of 8 CFR § 208.30(g)(1);
  • Blocking attorneys from entering an appearance with the immigration court, including by not docketing immigration court review cases in a timely manner, thereby preventing them from representing their clients;
  • Refusing to permit attorneys to actively participate in immigration court reviews and rejecting evidence submitted in advance of the immigration court review; and
  • Conducting Immigration Judge reviews of negative credible fear findings without the attorney of record present.

Forcing asylum seekers in CBP detention to proceed with their CFIs while facing nearly insurmountable barriers to legal counsel –while also subjecting them to an asylum ban – upends any notion of fairness. Instead, it is an evisceration of our asylum system. The installation of new phone booths, which you claim differentiate Biden’s program from the Trump policy, fails entirely to address any of these systemic obstacles. Additionally, the Biden administration’s decision to conduct immigration court reviews immediately following these lightning-fast CFIs, while the individual is still in CBP custody, unacceptably further heightens the due process barriers asylum seekers must overcome to avoid summary deportation.

We have also received troubling reports of the terrible conditions that asylum seekers face in CBP custody while awaiting their CFIs, in line with years of reports of abusive, dehumanizing, and sometimes life-threatening conditions that include medical neglect, inedible food and water, and lack of access to showers and other basic hygiene. It has been less than a month since the unforgivable death of eight-year-old Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez, who was jailed in one of the CBP facilities where your administration conducts CFIs. We are horrified that the administration has systematized the detention of asylum seekers in these same deadly conditions while rushing them through fear screenings.

Notably, the administration has a choice: it is not required to use expedited removal and has the authority to refer people for full asylum hearings, rather than subjecting them to rushed CFIs in dehumanizing CBP detention while cut off from legal help. Sacrificing fairness for speed by jailing people fleeing persecution and torture, subjecting them to a ban on asylum, and forcing them to proceed with a life-or-death interview without meaningful access to counsel must not be this administration’s response to people wishing to exercise their fundamental human right to seek asylum. These policies punish people seeking safety and prioritize political optics over the administration’s stated aim of working to “restore and strengthen our own asylum system, which has been badly damaged by policies enacted over the last four years that contravened our values and caused needless human suffering.”


Acacia Center for Justice

Afghans For A Better Tomorrow

African Human Rights Coalition

Al Otro Lado

Alianza Americas

Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, ACCE

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

American Gateways

American Immigration Council

Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice)

Amnesty International USA

Angry Tias and Abuelas

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI)

Bridges Faith Initiative

Border Kindness

Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition

Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies

Center for Victims of Torture

Central American Resource Center of Northern CA – CARECEN SF

Church World Service

Cleveland Jobs with Justice

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)

Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County, Inc. (CAB)

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA)

Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services Inc.

Dorcas International Institute of RI

Fellowship Southwest

First Focus on Children

Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project

Franciscan Action Network

Freedom Network USA

Greater Boston Legal Services

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program


Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative

Human Rights First

Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

Immigrant Defenders Law Center

Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Immigration Equality

Immigration Law & Justice Network

Immigration Hub

Innovation Law Lab


Interfaith Welcome Coalition – San Antonio

International Center of Kentucky

International Institute of Los Angeles

International Institute of New England

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

ISLA: Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy

JAMAAT – Jews and Muslims and Allies Acting Together

Jewish Family Service of San Diego

Jewish Vocational Service of Kansas City

Just Neighbors

Justice in Motion

Kino Border Initiative

Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center

Latino Community Foundation

Lawyers for Good Government

Legal Aid Justice Center

Lost and Found Church of the Nazarene

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services

Mariposa Legal, program of COMMON Foundation

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Metrowest Legal Services

Minnestoa Freedom Fund


Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Muslim Advocates

National Employment Law Project

National Immigrant Justice Center

National Immigration Law Center

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

National Partnership for New Americans

NCLR (National Center for Lesbian Rights)

Northeastern University School of Law Immigrant Justice Clinic

Open Immigration Legal Services

Oromo Center for Civil and Political Rights

Oxfam America

Phoenix Legal Action Network

Physicians for Human Rights

Public Law Center


Refugees International

Resource Center Matamoros / Asylum Seeker Network of Support, Inc.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network

SIREN, Services Immigrant Rights and Education Network

Southwest Asylum & Migration Institute (“SAMI”)

Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice

Survivors of Torture, International

Team Brownsville

Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors

The Advocates for Human Rights

The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

The Reformed Church of Highland Park

UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic

Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

United Sikhs

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)


Vera Institute of Justice

Washington Office on Latin America

Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center

Witness at the Border

Women’s Refugee Commission

Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

Featured Image: A placard denotes an interview room as U.S. Customs and Border Protection prepares to reopen the newly renovated Rio Grande Valley Sector Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, Feb. 28, 2022. CBP Photo by Glenn Fawcett/DVIDS.