A district court judge recently issued an important decision regarding the one-year filing deadline for asylum applications. By law, an asylum seeker who is present in the United States may apply for asylum but must do so within one year of arrival. The proper place to file (or lodge) the asylum application depends on which agency has jurisdiction over the case. In a functioning immigration system, an asylum seeker would appear at a port of entry or the border, have a credible-fear interview, and be released with instructions to file the formal asylum application with the immigration court (or USCIS, depending on the case) during the next 365 days.
Unfortunately, our current immigration system is overburdened and does not always afford the opportunity to file an asylum application within one year. First, it is not uncommon that the asylum applicant is not informed by CBP or ICE about the filing deadline. Second, if the applicant is referred to court, the charging document rarely has a scheduled court date and is often not filed with the immigration court for months. Until the charging document is filed, an asylum application cannot be filed with the court. That leaves hopeful asylum applicants in an impossible situation: even if they were informed about the one-year deadline, there is nowhere to file an asylum application anyway.
The judge ruled against the government, and gave DHS three months to create a better system of notifying individuals about the one-year deadline. The judge also ordered DHS to fix the mechanisms within the department to allow asylum applications to be filed in a timely manner, and gave it four months to accomplish this.