LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. officials are taking steps to stem a surging backlog in asylum applications to prevent fraud and enable those genuinely fleeing persecution to settle here.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Wednesday that it will start reviewing more recent applications first and push those already waiting a long time toward the back of the line.

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It aims to prevent immigrants from applying for asylum to bide their time and obtain work permits when they don’t qualify for the protection.

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Immigration attorneys said the move was absurd and would force those already waiting three or four years to wait even longer for their cases to be heard.

The agency has more than 300,000 pending asylum applications, compared with 16,000 in July 2012.

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