Democrats in Congress have condemned the Biden administration for proposing a restrictive new asylum rule that immigration advocates have likened to a Donald Trump-era ban, saying that it will further endanger countless asylum seekers south of the U.S. border.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice proposed a rule that would bar people from accessing asylum in the U.S. if they traveled through another country on the way to the U.S. border and didn’t seek asylum in that country first, despite the fact that many countries don’t have a functioning asylum system.
Opponents of the rule say that it is essentially a resurrection of a transit ban proposed by the Trump administration that was blocked by a federal court after immigration rights advocates said it was a racist attempt to circumvent U.S. asylum law to limit certain people from entering the country.
Now, after a string of other anti-immigration actions from the president, the Biden administration is seeking to bring a version of the rule back. The policy could block tens of thousands of people at the border from being granted asylum.
Democrats and progressives sharply criticized the move in statements and on social media this week.
The rule is, “in word and deed, almost identical to Donald Trump’s ‘transit ban,’” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) said in a statement on Wednesday. “The policy flies in the face of international law, U.S. law and basic morality. It will put the lives of countless asylum-seekers at risk. By punishing the victims of decades of failed policy, it will do absolutely nothing to address the root causes of U.S. immigration.”
Senators Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico) and Alex Padilla (D-California) released a joint statement expressing their frustration with the rule.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Biden Administration has chosen to move forward with publishing this proposed rule, which only perpetuates the harmful myth that asylum seekers are a threat to this nation,” the senators said. “In reality, they are pursuing a legal pathway in the United States. We have an obligation to protect vulnerable migrants under domestic and international law and should not leave vulnerable migrants stranded in countries unable to protect them.”
Immigration advocates have also spoken out against the rule, saying it will only worsen conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border, where people face widespread threats of kidnapping and violence.
“President Biden campaigned on restoring the soul of America, which includes restoring our asylum system. Instead, President Biden has made it a practice of recycling Trump-era policies, like this asylum transit ban announced today,” Guerline Jozef, executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, said in a statement this week.
“This policy will prevent extremely vulnerable people, especially Black and LGBTQIA+ migrants fleeing from seeking asylum if they did not do so in the other countries that they passed through,” Jozef said. “This is absurd and illegal and will effectively shut down our asylum system, denying many the opportunity to seek safety.”
Advocacy groups have vowed to take legal action against the rule. Last month, a group of over 70 Democrats, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), sent a letter to the Biden administration asking it to reconsider proposing the rule, writing that it is inhumane and violates U.S. law granting people the right to seek asylum in the U.S.
Immigration advocates have been frustrated by the Biden administration, which has repeatedly upheld and expanded upon the cruelty of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Even as it has supposedly sought to end Title 42, a pandemic policy that both Biden and Trump have used to deport millions of migrants, the Biden administration has worked to expand the policy’s use.
And, though Biden condemned Trump’s policy of imprisoning immigrants and asylum seekers in concentration camps, many immigrant advocates have pointed out, his administration has maintained and even increased cruel carceral measures to punish asylum seekers.
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