Lodi News-Sentinel

New Biden policy limits asylum access at border

- Hamed Aleaziz

The Biden administra­tion announced a policy Tuesday that would limit asylum access to immigrants who cross into the U.S. without authorizat­ion and fail to apply for protection­s on the way to the southern border with Mexico.

The new proposal, which was telegraphe­d in a January news conference, will not take effect immediatel­y and will go through a regulatory process to allow public comment for 30 days before the policy is finalized. After that time, the policy is set to be in place for two years following its effective date.

The effort is the latest Biden administra­tion proposal to deter migrants from entering the U.S. without authorizat­ion, and to bring down the numbers of migrants crossing the southern border. The policy is being unveiled as the administra­tion prepares for the expected end in May of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows border agents to quickly turn back migrants at the border.

The government had struggled to lower the number of crossings at the border before it decided to expand its use of Title 42 in January to expel Nicaraguan­s, Haitians, Venezuelan­s and Cubans to Mexico. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security allowed immigrants from those countries who had verified sponsors in the country to enter the U.S. legally. Following the announceme­nt, the numbers of unauthoriz­ed border crossings went down in January to their lowest levels in almost two years.

“We will sue if this administra­tion goes through with a transit ban, just as we successful­ly sued over the Trump transit ban,” said Lee Gelernt, a senior attorney with the ACLU.

Since Biden administra­tion officials hinted at the effort in January, advocates have criticized the idea, saying it mirrors former President Donald Trump’s move to block asylum for those who crossed into the U.S. without authorizat­ion and did not seek protection­s in another country on their journey. That proposal was later blocked in federal court.

“The Biden administra­tion must adjust course immediatel­y and abandon the misguided pursuit of an asylum ban. We urge you not to issue the (proposal) on the asylum ban,” a group of nearly 300 immigrant advocacy groups wrote to the Biden administra­tion in a January letter.

Biden administra­tion officials, however, have said this policy is not comparable because it does not categorica­lly ban asylum.

Under the proposal, immigrants who do not seek legal pathways into the U.S., schedule a time to arrive at a port of entry, or seek and are denied asylum in a separate country on their way to the U.S. would be forced to overcome a presumptio­n that they are ineligible for asylum.

Immigrants who do not overcome that hurdle would be deported unless they meet one of several exceptions included in the policy, or clear a higher bar for protection in the U.S. Asylum officers are expected to handle interviews of immigrants crossing the U.S. border.

Exceptions include experienci­ng a medical emergency, an imminent threat to life or victimizat­ion from a severe form of traffickin­g.

A record number of migrants descended on the Southwest border last year, putting political pressure on the Biden administra­tion. Border agents made more than 2 million arrests at the border during the yearlong period that ended Sept. 30, 2022, according to Customs and Border Protection data. Republican­s have argued those numbers prove Biden is weak on border security.

Biden has sought to end Title 42 but has faced legal challenges from Republican-led states who argue ending the policy would result in a surge of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border. The Supreme Court ordered the administra­tion to keep the policy in place until it rules on the states’ lawsuit.

The administra­tion, however, plans to allow the public health emergency for COVID-19 that underlies Title 42 to expire on May 11. Following that announceme­nt, the Supreme Court took arguments scheduled in the case off its docket.

Despite the administra­tion’s effort to end Title 42, in recent months officials have expanded its use by turning back Venezuelan­s, Cubans, Nicaraguan­s and Haitians to Mexico under the policy, limiting the ability of thousands of migrants to seek asylum. Mexico has agreed to allow U.S. officials to return up to 30,000 migrants per month.

Before January, Venezuelan and Cuban migrants for the most part had been able to cross the border and seek protection­s. The U.S. had been unable to deport migrants at high levels from those countries as well as Nicaragua due to strained relations with their government­s.

The Biden administra­tion has said the U.S. is facing an unpreceden­ted surge in migration in the Western Hemisphere, including from Venezuela. That country has seen almost 7 million people leave since 2014.

 ?? ANA RAMIREZ/SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE ?? Asylum seekers from Peru and Ecuador wait at San Diego Internatio­nal Airport after being dropped off by federal officials at a transit center in El Cajon on Dec. 23, 2022.
ANA RAMIREZ/SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE Asylum seekers from Peru and Ecuador wait at San Diego Internatio­nal Airport after being dropped off by federal officials at a transit center in El Cajon on Dec. 23, 2022.

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