WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday issued a new regulation denying asylum to most immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, a key part of President Joe Biden’s enforcement plan under the COVID-19 Border Restrictions known as Address. 42 this weekend.
The regulation creates a new presumption that migrants who reach the border are ineligible for asylum if they pass through other countries without first seeking protection elsewhere or if they fail to use legal pathways to enter the United States.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas said the new law would mean severe consequences for illegal border crossers. Instead of being quickly expelled back to Mexico, they could be deported and banned from entering the United States for five years if they do not qualify for asylum.
“We are making it very clear that our borders are not open, irregular crossing is against the law, and those who are not eligible for relief will be quickly returned,” Mayorkas told a news conference in Washington.
He blamed Congress for not passing meaningful immigration reform “for more than two decades,” adding that lawmakers failed to provide the money the Biden administration sought for border agents, utilities, and transportation.
The Biden administration is grappling with an increase in already record levels of unauthorized border crossings as COVID-19 restrictions, first implemented in March 2020, are set to be lifted Thursday before midnight. Migrants are crowding into Mexico this week and at the same time, those who have already crossed into the US are straining border towns.
Title 42 restrictions allow US authorities to quickly expel many non-Mexican immigrants back to Mexico without the opportunity to claim asylum in the United States. Mexicans, the nationality most often caught in transit, could be quickly returned to Mexico under bilateral agreements that predate COVID-19 restrictions.
the new systemsA senior Biden administration official told reporters Tuesday night that there are no major changes to the draft that was published in February, which will become effective Thursday and expire in two years.
The rule will apply to the vast majority of non-Mexican immigrants because they typically pass through multiple countries on their way to the United States.
Some migrants said they were scrambling to enter the country before the new rules went into effect.
More than 10,000 migrants are caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border each day, Monday and Tuesday, said Brandon Good, president of the Border Patrol Union. The total exceeds the scenario outlined by a senior US border official last month for the period after Title 42 ends.
Judd said border agents have been allowed to release migrants in border towns if US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and charitable organizations lack the capacity to take them.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Criticism from both sides
Republicans have criticized Biden, a Democrat running for re-election in 2024, for reversing the hardline policies of former Republican President Donald Trump, the front-runner for his party’s nomination.
But some Democrats and immigration advocates have criticized Biden’s new regulation, saying it resembles similar measures implemented under Trump that have been blocked by US courts, and that it undermines asylum guarantees in US law and international agreements.
The move also contradicts previous statements Biden made in 2020 while campaigning, saying he believed it was “a mistake” that people could not seek asylum on US soil. The ACLU has already indicated that it will sue over the policy.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, a coalition of 22 Republican attorneys general separately opposed the measure, say It is “full of exceptions”.
In addition to the ban on asylum seekers, which could lead to an increase in deportations, Biden officials said in late April they were expanding legal pathways abroad for immigrants in order to provide alternative routes to enter the United States and discourage illegal transit.
On the call with reporters Tuesday, Biden officials said the administration plans to open more than 100 immigration processing centers in the Western Hemisphere and will launch a new online appointment platform in the coming days.
Officials also said they expect Mexico to ramp up immigration enforcement this week, including in southern Mexico.
(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington and Christina Cook in San Francisco). Editing by Micah Rosenberg, Aurora Ellis, and Jamie Fried
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