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Biden Expands Trump-era Border Restrictions Once Again

New Policy Will Further Limit Access to Life-saving Asylum

Venezuelans walk near a bridge that crosses the Rio Grande River after being expelled from the United States into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. The Biden administration announced on Jan. 5, 2023, that it intends to immediately expel Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans without allowing them to seek asylum. © 2022 AP Photo/Christian Chavez

The US and Mexico announced a new “border enforcement” policy on Thursday, January 5, 2023, which blocks Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans from accessing asylum by immediately expelling them to Mexico under the Trump-era Title 42 rule.

They also announced the expansion of a parole program that will allow some Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans who can obtain a US-based financial sponsor, hold a valid passport, and afford plane tickets, to apply for permission to travel to the US by plane. The administration established a similar policy for Venezuelans in October 2022.

The Biden and López Obrador administrations have presented the parole program as an expansion of legal pathways for noncitizens, but in reality it will likely decrease the number of people able to access life-saving protection in the US. That’s because people fleeing for their safety are often unable to obtain passports or wait in their countries of origin while their applications are processed, particularly those who are fleeing government persecution. Given the current situation in Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua, the policy makes it extremely difficult for people in these countries to meet these conditions. The program is also contrary to international refugee law and international human rights law which prohibits discrimination in accessing asylum, including based on financial means.

The Biden administration also announced plans to restrict access to asylum for people who travel through other countries before reaching the US. This proposed “transit ban” is akin to other Trump-era policies that resulted in human rights abuses for migrants returned to countries like Guatemala, as documented by Human Rights Watch in 2020.

Instead of expanding and reviving abusive Trump-era policies, the Biden administration should respect the right to seek asylum for all people and families, and create a new and orderly process for responding to migrants’ various rights-based rationales for seeking to enter the country. That includes people seeking asylum from persecution, adapting to the effects of climate change, returning to places in the US where noncitizens may have resided for many years, or reuniting with family members.

The number of people seeking to enter the US has not decreased, despite increasingly harsh and punitive border policies that rely on law-enforcement-only approaches. It is time for the Biden administration to garner the courage to do things differently by partnering with welcoming communities around the United States to ensure an orderly and humane response to arriving immigrants and asylum seekers.

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