The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a new policy, set to take effect when COVID measures at the southern border expire, that would place limits on migrants’ eligibility to claim asylum when entering the US from Mexico.
The policy has received widespread criticism from congressional Democrats and immigrant advocacy organizations, who liken it to a “transit ban” proposed by Stephen Miller, a hard-line immigration adviser to President Donald Trump. Advocacy organizations have threatened to sue.
Under the new rule, migrants who pass through countries on their way to the US and do not first claim asylum there or take advantage of other valid routes will be ineligible to claim asylum at the southern border .
Department of Homeland Security officials have widely predicted that when the US lifts the COVID restrictions, known as Title 42, the country’s immigration will plummet, having stopped more than 2 million asylum seekers since March 2020. The system will collapse. Barring any successful court challenge, Title 42 would expire. The new policy is set to last for two years, in May, and after Title 42 expires, according to a news release from the departments of Homeland Security and Justice.
“It was not our first priority or even our second priority,” an administration official told reporters on a call Tuesday.
,[Immigrants] Easy and convenient ways to apply will continue [for asylum in the U.S.]said the officer.
As announced on January 5, migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela will be able to apply to come to the US if they can show they have a US-based sponsor to support them. Migrants from other countries may apply for appointments with Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry as per previous policy. But administration officials could not tell reporters on a call Tuesday how many migrants might be able to access those appointments.
Advocates and lawyers working with refugees in Central America and those waiting in camps in northern Mexico have reported that the app for scheduling appointments often does not work and is inaccessible to many migrants.
“CBP continues to build out the capabilities of the app,” the administration official said.
The Biden administration has repeatedly denied that the new policy is a re-creation of a Trump-era transit ban.
“As we have seen time and time again, individuals who are provided a safe, orderly and lawful passage to the United States are forced to risk their lives to travel thousands of miles to the hands of unrelenting traffickers.” Chances are slim, only to reach our southernmost border and face the legal consequences of illegal entry,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Immigrant rights groups quickly reacted to the announcement of the new policy.
“President Biden ran and won the presidency pledging to turn the page on the brutality and lawlessness of the Trump era and to ‘restore America’s soul,'” said Douglas Rivlin, director of communications for America’s Voice, a Group that advocates for immigration reform and immigrants. “It is difficult to reconcile those promises with the details of the proposed asylum ban announced today. It is a policy reminiscent of the Trump/Stephen Miller approach and a deliberate break from some of our proudest traditions as a nation.