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Press Release // Immigration and Asylum

Transit Ban 2.0: New Biden Rule Would Limit Asylum Eligibility

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Global Refuge Staff

February 21, 2023

Contact: Tim Young | timothy.young@globalrefuge.org

Washington, D.C. – In preparation for the end of Title 42 asylum restrictions, the Biden administration announced a new proposed rule severely limiting asylum eligibility for those who did not first seek protection in a country they transited through to reach the United States, or who entered without notifying a border agent. The proposed rule will be subject to a 30-day period of public comment before it can take effect.

The new rule mirrors a transit asylum ban first implemented under the Trump administration, which was ultimately struck down by federal judges in multiple courts.  The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that people seeking protection may apply for asylum regardless of manner of entry, and does not require them to have first applied for protection in another country.

In response to the proposed asylum eligibility rule, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President and CEO of Global Refuge, said:

“This rule reaches into the dustbin of history to resurrect one of the most harmful and illegal anti-asylum policies of the Trump administration. This transit ban defies decades of humanitarian protections enshrined in U.S. law and international agreements, and flagrantly violates President Biden’s own campaign promises to restore asylum. Requiring persecuted people to first seek protection in countries with no functioning asylum systems themselves is a ludicrous and life-threatening proposal.

While the Biden administration has launched a smartphone app for asylum appointments and expanded a temporary parole option for an extremely limited subset of four nationalities, these measures are no substitute for the legal right to seek asylum, regardless of manner of entry. It is generally the most vulnerable asylum seekers who are least likely to be able to navigate a complex app plagued by technical issues, language barriers, and overwhelming demand. Many families face immediate danger and cannot afford to wait for months on end in their country of persecution. To penalize them for making the lifesaving decision to seek safety at our border flies in the face of core American values.

We urge the Biden administration to reverse course before this misguided rule denies protection to those most in need of it. Officials must recognize that decades of deterrence-based policies have had little to no impact in suppressing migration. Instead, they should focus on managing migration humanely through expanded parole programs, efficient refugee processing in the hemisphere, and an equitably accessible asylum system.”

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