The government will generally no longer detain asylum seekers who arrive at U.S. border crossings, airports and other entry points who have a credible fear of persecution or torture in their home country as long as they meet certain requirements, immigration officials announced today.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Homeland Security Department’s investigative arm and the agency responsible for immigration detention, will put the policy into place starting Jan. 4, according to an ICE press release.

ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton said in a statement that the new policy, which changes the agency’s stance on locking up people who ask for protection when they arrive at border crossings, is part of ongoing efforts to reform immigration detention.

“These new parole procedures for asylum seekers will help ICE focus both on protecting against major threats to public safety and implementing common-sense detention policies,” he said.

The new guidelines give the government authority to allow asylum seekers who have not been formally allowed into the country to remain out of immigration jail if they meet requirements determined by an asylum officer or an immigration judge. Normally foreign nationals who seek entrance into the United States but are without a visa or other valid travel documents are not permitted into the country.

CIR previously reported with the Los Angeles Times on the detention of Mexican asylum seekers, including police officers, who fled the country because they were afraid for their lives.

Arriving asylum seekers must establish their identity and show that they are not a danger to the country or a flight risk, and have a “credible” or valid fear of persecution or torture, as determined by an asylum officer or an immigration jduge. Such refugees must show that they are also eligible for asylum to be considered for release. The parole out of detention doesn’t automatically mean that the asylum seeker will be granted protection.

The new policy also instructs ICE agents to report monthly on parole rates and decision-making in order to ensure that paroled asylum seekers are complying with requirements.

Foreign nationals who are already legally in the country when they ask for asylum are typically not subject to detention.

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Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.