The Biden administration broke with decades of tradition on Tuesday by releasing a new regulation that effectively prevents asylum seekers who transited other countries on their way to the US-Mexico border from doing so. The new, 153-page proposed regulation is the most stringent of a hodgepodge of policies put in place by the Biden administration to try to manage the US-Mexico border, and it is reminiscent of a strategy from the Trump era.
The text of the regulation states that the presumption of ineligibility for asylum would “encourage migrants to avail themselves of lawful, safe, and orderly pathways into the United States, or otherwise to seek asylum or other protection in countries through which they travel,” thereby decreasing the need for human smuggling networks that exploit migrants for profit.
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Migrants who cross the US-Mexico border illegally would, with a few exceptions, fall under this regulation. Children who are migrants alone are excluded from this policy.
An administration source told reporters, “To be clear, this was not our first priority or even our second.” The official went on to say that it is Congress’s responsibility to pass reform.
The government official explained that they were forced to resort to these interim measures.
On Tuesday, administration officials responded to comparisons with the Trump administration by insisting that this is not a blanket ban on asylum and highlighting initiatives to increase the number of legal entry points into the United States, such as the recently implemented parole program for certain nationalities.
In May, when a border limitation put in place during the epidemic known as Title 42 is slated to expire, the proposed regulation will go into force after a 30-day public comment period in the Federal Register. The regulation is anticipated to remain in place for two years.
Like the Trump administration’s policy, the Biden administration’s has been widely criticized by Democrats and supporters of immigrants. A source familiar with the meeting reports that Democratic Hispanic senators voiced their continued worries about the rule and opposition to it in a private meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week.
At the time of the rule’s announcement, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus expressed displeasure with the administration, saying they felt “blindsided” by the administration’s new border policy and lack of consultation.
Mayorkas reportedly briefed Latino senators on the regulation, but this didn’t put their minds at ease. On Tuesday, activists for immigrants voiced their disapproval of the asylum rule, saying it went against President Joseph Biden’s promise to reinstate asylum.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President and CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah said, “This regulation goes into the dustbin of history to resurrect one of the most damaging and illegal anti-asylum initiatives of the Trump administration.” To insist that persons fleeing persecution go to nations without adequate asylum procedures is a dangerous and absurd idea.
The administration has relied on Title 42 to reject certain migrants at the US-Mexico border in an effort to control the influx. Tens of thousands of migrants continue to move throughout the Western Hemisphere, but the clock is ticking on its probable expiration and amid ongoing lawsuits, officials are mulling new enforcement tactics.
The government is considering a number of options, one of which being the use of accelerated removal, a streamlined method of deportation. The plan appears to be the first time Mexico would accept back non-Mexican deportees on a big scale, but Mexico has been taking migrants under Title 42 and a border policy known as “stay in Mexico” during the Trump era. Information on the scheme has been refuted by the Department of Homeland Security.
Border patrol agents have been overwhelmed by an influx of Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan migrants as a result of the changing migration patterns. As the United States’ diplomatic connections with these countries are so fragile, it is primarily prohibited from returning nationals of those countries to their home countries via deportation.
Since then, the United States has began sending Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan migrants to Mexico via Title 42, and it has launched a separate program for migrants from those countries and Haiti to petition for legal entry to the United States. There have been thousands of applications from potential migrants.
Government officials have said they believe the initiative is responsible for the dramatic decrease in border crossings that has been observed.