Biden administration announces pending restrictions on asylum seekers

Biden administration announces pending restrictions on asylum seekers

The United States could ban tens of thousands of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum. The proposal, unveiled Tuesday, could be the Joe Biden administration’s most sweeping attempt to curb the flow of people crossing the U.S. border illegally.

Under the new rules, migrants who do not use existing legal routes to enter the United States or do not seek protection in the countries they pass through on their way to the United States are automatically deemed ineligible for asylum unless they fall under certain exceptions.

Reuters first reported details of the proposal, which was published Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

Biden initially promised to restore access to asylum that was limited under his predecessor, Donald Trump. But migrant rights advocates and some Democratic colleagues have criticized him for increasingly adhering to Trump-style restrictions as his administration struggles to cope with record numbers of migrant arrivals.

Biden’s plan to ban asylum applications by certain categories of migrants mirrors similar measures taken by the Trump administration and subsequently blocked by federal courts.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has vowed to fight the Biden administration’s proposal in court, comparing it to a restriction imposed by Trump, which activists call a “transit ban.”

“We successfully challenged Trump’s transit ban in court, and will sue again if the Biden administration carries out its plan,” said Lee Gelernth, an ACLU spokesman.

Families and single adults will be mostly affected by the restrictions, while unaccompanied minors will be exempt from the new requirements, according to the text of the rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department. The measure would be time-limited to a two-year period.

The Biden administration began discussing the ban and other Trump-style measures last year as a way to reduce illegal border crossings if COVID-19-era restrictions allowing many migrants to be sent back to Mexico were lifted. The administration continues to tighten asylum rules as the restrictions, known as Title 42, will likely end on May 11, when the public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

“Without meaningful policy changes, the number of border crossings could potentially increase dramatically” after the repeal of Title 42, the text of the rule says. The government estimates that the number of border crossings could reach as many as 13,000 per day without restrictions due to Section 42, up from about 5,000 crossings per day in January.

A Biden administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters during a phone call Tuesday that the rule is “intended to fill the void Congress left by failing to act” on meaningful immigration reform.

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