On January 5th, the Biden administration announced plans to issue a new rule reviving Trump-era asylum bans that would deny people at the southern border access to life-saving protections based solely on how they traveled to and entered the United States. This rule would bar people from seeking asylum if they failed to ask for protection in another country on their journey to request safety in the United States or entered without notifying a border patrol agent.
Unfortunately, this recent announcement is consistent with the President’s recent remarks on border policy, in which he claimed that the U.S. “can’t stop people from making the journey, but we can require…that they come here in an orderly way under U.S. law.” Such a ban, however, would be contrary to the very legal system President Biden purports to uphold. Under domestic law, a person is eligible for asylum if they are physically present in the United States or arrive in the United States—“whether or not at a designated port of arrival.” These protections have been enshrined into U.S. law for four decades. As LIRS has stated again and again, instituting regulations that prevent a person seeking safety from availing themselves of our U.S. asylum protections because of how they entered is not just immoral, it’s illegal.
When the Trump administration issued a similar transit ban, the Ninth Circuit Court repeatedly struck down the rule because it violated U.S. asylum law and found that no safe option existed for migrants to seek asylum en route to the United States. It makes sense; human rights groups have reported numerous cases of abuse and struggle to obtain legal status that migrants and asylum seekers experience as they transit through Mexico. Biden’s proposed rule would then essentially punish people for not seeking asylum even though there’s no meaningful ability to do so (least of all safely).
Such asylum bans have resulted in rapid denial of legitimate asylum claims, lengthy detention, and family separation, and LIRS has joined our partners in condemning the Biden Administration’s attempts to resurrect them. Instead, we envision a just, fair, and orderly humanitarian protection system that does not discriminate or cherry-pick who has access to and receives protection. As LIRS President and CEO Krish O’Mara Vignarajah explained in a press call discussing the President’s announcement, “draconian restrictions to limit the legal right to seek asylum are a short-term deterrent, but robust legal pathways will ultimately ease strain on the asylum system well into the future.”
These policies may seem complex and confusing, but their real cost is clear: the lives of those who would be sent back to their home countries to face war, persecution, and even death. Everyone deserves a welcome with dignity. Our country has the capacity to support those seeking safety, and the public overwhelmingly supports providing access to asylum. We strongly oppose efforts to bypass our legal and moral obligations and call on the administration to welcome those fleeing persecution and provide them with a path to safety.
Join us in urging the administration to not issue the rule on the asylum ban and to make good on its promise to “secure our values as a nation of immigrants” by strengthening our asylum system for all seeking safety.