The United States government has unveiled a proposed rule that would automatically deny asylum to most migrants who cross into the U.S. between official ports of entry.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice issued the proposed rule on Tuesday, the former saying in a press release that it would “incentivize the use of new and existing lawful processes and disincentivize dangerous border crossings by placing a new condition on asylum eligibility.”
The DHS said that “under the proposed rule, individuals who circumvent available, established pathways to lawful migration … and also fail to seek protection in a country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, would be subject to a rebuttable presumption of asylum ineligibility in the United States unless they meet specified exceptions.”
The established pathways include “new processes announced on January 5” for Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians “as well as a newly-available mechanism for migrants from any nationality to schedule a time and place to arrive at a port of entry.”
The “mechanism” is a Customs and Border Patrol mobile app called CBP One, which has been in use since January but “overloaded by huge demand and plagued with glitches since tens of thousands of migrants staying in shelters on the Mexican side of the border began using it,” according to a New York Times report.
The announcement of the planned policy change – which wouldn’t apply to unaccompanied minors – comes “in response to the unprecedented western hemispheric migration challenges – the greatest displacement of people since World War II – and the absence of congressional action to update a very broken, outdated immigration system,” the DHS said.
The proposed rule, which is open to public comment in the U.S. Federal Register for 30 days, would take effect on May 11 – the date COVID-related border controls are scheduled to expire – allowing the swift deportation of migrants who didn’t follow the “established pathways.”
“DHS continues to prepare for the lifting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 Public Health Order, which is expected on May 11, 2023, and the return to processing all noncitizens under Title 8 immigration authorities,” the press release said.
“Until then, the Title 42 order remains in effect, and individuals who attempt to enter the United States without authorization will continue to be expelled.”
The DHS noted that the proposed rule is “an emergency measure that is intended to respond to the elevated levels of [migrant] encounters anticipated after the lifting of the Title 42 Order.”
It would apply at the United States’ border with Mexico for a period of two years after implementation, the department said.
The New York Times described the proposal as the Biden administration’s “toughest policy yet to crack down on unlawful entries.”
The U.S. president has come under intense pressure – especially from the Republican Party – to do more to stop record levels of illegal immigration via Mexico.
An unnamed U.S. government official told the AFP news agency that the Biden administration “will not allow mass chaos and disorder at the border because of Congress’s failure to act.”
However, some organizations said that the proposed migration rule is illegal.
“The Biden administration proposed a rule that would unlawfully deny asylum to people at the southern border who don’t first seek safety in Mexico or other countries they passed through – despite the fact that these countries don’t have working asylum systems,” the American Civil Liberties Union said on Twitter.
“President Biden’s proposed rule would leave vulnerable people in danger and unfairly deny protection to thousands. … Our courts have long recognized that a person’s decision not to seek asylum while in transit to the US does not override their need for protection here,” the organization said.
“We successfully fought President Trump on a similar ban in the courts – President Biden’s should not move forward.”
Abby Maxman, the president and CEO of Oxfam America, said the “sweeping asylum ban” would “shut the door to countless refugees seeking safety and protection in the United States.”
“This policy is illegal, immoral, and will exact a frightening human toll on children, women, and men seeking safety. It is deeply disappointing that the Biden administration would seek to put up barriers for people fleeing for their lives,” she said.
“President Biden promised to reject the harmful policies of the Trump administration and restore and protect the rights of asylum seekers. But this policy is a page taken from the Trump administration’s racist, anti-refugee playbook. We urge President Biden to immediately change course and keep his promise to ‘reassert America’s commitment to asylum seekers and refugees.'”
The United States government’s announcement of the proposed rule came a day after President López Obrador met with U.S. senators and representatives to discuss free trade, migration and security.
He said on social media on Monday that Mexico’s relationship with the United States is “respectful, cooperative and beneficial to our people,” but hasn’t commented on the proposed migration rule.
Mexico earlier this month rejected a move by the United States to reactivate the Remain in Mexico policy, under which asylum seekers must wait in Mexico while their U.S. claims are processed.
With reports from BBC