On February 23, 2023, the Biden Administration released a proposed rule, effectively amounting to an asylum ban once put in place. The proposed rule would severely restrict access to asylum for many based on their manner of entry into the United States and transit through other countries. Under the Trump Administration, a similar asylum ban had a devastating impact on migrant families and people seeking protection who were summarily deported without receiving meaningful due process. With the Biden Administration providing only 30 days to collect public feedback on this latest proposal, it is urgent that those who support welcome take action now.
About the Proposed Rule
Contrary to President Biden’s promises to restore a fair and humane asylum system, the new rule would impose punitive restrictions on people seeking protection based on the way in which they come to the United States. Specifically, the rule would establish a presumption of ineligibility for asylum for people seeking protection who traveled through another country in order to reach the U.S. southern border. Recent data indicates that the majority (63 percent) of people seeking protection at the U.S. southern border are from Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela. Most asylum seekers transit through the Northern Triangle since this is the most direct route from origin countries to the southern border. These countries are experiencing a diverse array of security, economic, climate, and governance issues. They also currently lack the capacity to provide meaningful protection for those in dire need of it. In all of 2022, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras processed no more than 1,000 asylum cases, according to the United Nations.
The proposed rule would also create the same presumption of ineligibility for people who do not make an appointment to present themselves at a Port of Entry through a cell phone application, with very limited exceptions. The CBP One app, touted as a game-changing technology and equalizer, is actually preventing asylum seekers from the protection they desperately need—particularly if they do not have access to a cell phone. Since its inception, the application has had pervasive technical issues and few language options (it is only in English and Spanish, causing issues for indigenous populations, Haitians, and other non-Spanish or non-English speaking asylum seekers). The issues with the application have also contributed to racial bias among asylum seekers searching for safety. This application is not improving access to asylum. Instead, it has become another bureaucratic obstacle for individuals to navigate during the asylum process.
Our Legal and Moral Position
We unequivocally oppose the proposed rule, which would violate our legal and moral obligations to asylum seekers. This rule is a shameful new iteration of an asylum ban that was first implemented under the Trump administration and was ultimately struck down by federal judges in multiple courts. The Biden asylum ban will have the same effect—and is expected to disproportionately impact Black, Brown, and Indigenous asylum seekers who often make treacherous journeys to the southern border through multiple countries and cannot access a visa or afford the comfort of a plane. During the Trump asylum ban, these groups faced an increase in asylum denial rates. Bringing back this policy would have irreversible consequences for people fleeing persecution and violence. It would also contravene our legal and moral obligations as a country.
We affirm the legal right for people to seek asylum in the United States, irrespective of their point of entry, and we firmly oppose this effort by the Biden Administration that would narrow or restrict the protections provided by United States law. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that people seeking protection may apply for asylum regardless of the manner of entry and the law does not require them to have first applied for protection in another country. Further, we reject the Biden Administration’s deterrence-oriented approach, which dehumanizes and imposes potentially life-threatening penalties on those exercising their right to seek safety, and we recognize that it would disparately impact Black, Brown, Indigenous, and LGBTQI+ migrants.
Putting Our Faith In Action
President Biden’s proposed rule is open for public comment and we need your help to call on the administration to stand down from this dangerous and misguided effort. Instead, we urge President Biden to make good on his campaign promises. Now is the time for a truly just, fair, and humane asylum system that welcomes and supports ALL people seeking protection. As people of faith and good conscience, we are called to recognize that we are one human family. As we see our siblings struggle, we must stretch our hands out in action, service, and solidarity to those who are most vulnerable, especially children, on the southern border.
Our country has the capacity and compassion to restore our asylum system for all seeking safety, to strengthen and expand legal pathways for those who are fleeing persecution, torture, or war, and to keep our promise to keep people safe and families together. To send a clear message to President Biden, we invite you to submit a public comment here.
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