The Biden administration published a proposal Tuesday that would block certain migrants from seeking asylum in the United States and allow the government to quickly deport them. The proposal, which is part of the administration’s efforts to manage the influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border, already has received strong criticism from immigration advocates.
Under the proposal, migrants who do not use available pathways to come to the US or fail to seek humanitarian refuge in another country they have passed through on their way to the United States will be deemed ineligible for asylum – unless they qualify for certain exceptions. Those who cannot qualify to be exempted or prove they sought asylum protection in another country will be barred from seeking asylum and quickly deported to their home countries without a chance to see an immigration judge.
In a call with members of the media, Biden officials argued that under the proposal migrants will still have “accessible and convenient pathways” to apply for asylum. The provisions are aimed at “cutting out the smugglers looking to make a quick buck off vulnerable people,” said an official who spoke on condition that their name would not be used, as is common in Homeland Security Department briefings. DHS officials said the public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed regulation before its implementation, which they expect to take place by the beginning of May. Those who cannot establish a valid claim to protection under the proposed rule will be subject to removal under Title 8 code, which means placed under expedited removal proceedings and sent back to Mexico or their home countries while barred from reentering the United States.
Critics of the proposal argue that it is a remake of the 2019 asylum restrictions proposed under the former Trump administration that were blocked by federal courts. Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in a statement, “This transit ban defies decades of humanitarian protections enshrined in US law and international agreements, and flagrantly violates President Biden’s own campaign promises to restore asylum. Requiring persecuted people to first seek protection in countries with no functioning asylum systems themselves is a ludicrous and life-threatening proposal.”
During the call with reporters, Biden officials challenged the idea the proposal is an asylum or transit ban. “I just really do want to take a minute to push back that this is any version of the continuation of the prior administration’s access or actions to cut off access to asylum,” a Biden official said on background. “You know, this is definitely different in the sense that we are offering a rebuttable presumption and not barring access to asylum like the prior administration did.”
US law still offers asylum for those on American soil who are facing persecution in their home countries on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular group, regardless of whether they entered the country without permission. “We are a nation of immigrants, and we are a nation of laws,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a statement to the press. “We are strengthening the availability of legal, orderly pathways for migrants to come to the United States, at the same time proposing new consequences on those who fail to use processes made available to them by the United States and its regional partners.” The proposal is likely to face legal challenges from immigration advocates if it is put into effect.