On February 21, the Biden Administration announced a proposed rule that would require rapid deportation of an immigrant at the U.S. border who had failed to request protection from another country while en route to the U.S. or who had not previously notified the U.S. via a mobile app of their plan to seek asylum in the U.S. or who had applied for the new U.S. humanitarian parole programs for certain countries (Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela). This rule will take effect on May 11, with the expected termination that day of Title 42 that allowed the U.S. to swiftly expel migrants at the U.S. border.
This announcement stated that the new rule would “incentivize the use of new and existing lawful processes and disincentivize dangerous border crossings, by placing a new condition on asylum eligibility for those who fail to do so. These steps are being taken in response to the unprecedented western hemispheric migration challenges – the greatest displacement of people since World War II – and the absence of congressional action to update a very broken, outdated immigration system.”
DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas stated, “We are a nation of immigrants, and we are a nation of laws. We are strengthening the availability of legal, orderly pathways for migrants to come to the United States, at the same time proposing new consequences on those who fail to use processes made available to them by the United States and its regional partners. As we have seen time and time again, individuals who are provided a safe, orderly, and lawful path to the United States are less likely to risk their lives traversing thousands of miles in the hands of ruthless smugglers, only to arrive at our southern border and face the legal consequences of unlawful entry.”
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland added the following: “The Department of Justice is responsible for administering the Nation’s immigration courts and ensuring that claims are adjudicated expeditiously, fairly, and consistent with due process. This proposed rule will establish temporary rules concerning asylum eligibility in those proceedings when the Title 42 order is lifted. We look forward to reviewing the public’s comments on this proposed rule.”
The Administration says that without this new rule, immigration at the U.S. border would “increase significantly, to a level that risks undermining the … continued ability to safely, effectively and humanely enforce and administer U.S. immigration law.”
Reactions to the New Rule
“In a joint statement, Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) and Alex Padilla (Calif.) called on the administration to drop the proposed rule. “We are deeply disappointed that the 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. In reality, they are pursuing a legal pathway in the United States.”
A similar reaction came from leading Democratic House members (Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Pramila Jayapal). In their joint statement, they expressed “deep disappointment” with the newly proposed rule and stated, “The ability to seek asylum is a bedrock principle protected by federal law and should never be violated. We should not be restricting legal pathways to enter the United States, we should be expanding them.”
“Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said they applaud the expanded pathways for those four countries announced in January but question where that leaves migrants from other countries. She says it favors people with resources who can afford the necessary requirements of finding a financial sponsor and buying a plane ticket to the U.S. And some people are so at risk, they simply cannot wait in their country for a humanitarian parole slot. Critics have also highlighted technological problems with the app.”
“The Federation for American Immigration Reform said that the rule isn’t designed to halt migrants as much as make the process more orderly: “In other words, the real objective is not to end large-scale asylum abuse, but rather to get them through the next election cycle.”
Justice Action Center’s counsel, Jane Bentrott, said the proposed rule “would send asylum seekers back to danger, separate families, and cost lives, as human rights advocates have been asserting for weeks. It is in direct contravention of President Biden’s campaign promises to reverse Trump’s racist, xenophobic immigration policies, and give all folks seeking safety a fair shot at asylum.”
Lindsay Toczylowski, the executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in California, criticized the inept operations of the government’s online system for scheduling an asylum application interview. “It’s almost like a lottery. You have to win a ticket to be able to seek protection in the U.S.”
An ACLU attorney, Lee Gelernt, who successfully challenged similar efforts by the Trump Administration, said that Biden’s new proposed rules had the same legal flaws as the Trump rules and that the ACLU would sue to block the latest move.
Although this blogger has been a pro bono attorney for asylum applicants and more generally an advocate for strong U.S. laws and procedures for same and although he is sympathetic to the above criticisms of the new proposed rules, it must be acknowledged that there is nothing in the international treaty or U.S. statutes on asylum that requires the U.S. to provide asylum interviews at the border to undocumented immigrants. Moreover, this and related changes in U.S. asylum laws and procedures are counterbalanced by new procedures in U.S. law for asylum or parole applications in Central American countries for at least some of these immigrants (Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela).
 DHS and DOJ Propose Rule to Incentivize Lawful Migration Processes, DHS (Feb. 21, 2023); Jordan, Biden Administration Announces New Border Crackdown, N.Y. Times (Feb. 21, 2023); Parti & Caldwell, Biden Administration Proposes New Limits on Asylum Seekers, W.S.J. (Feb. 21, 2023); Miroff, Asylum seekers who cross U.S. border illegally face new Biden rule, Wash. Post (Feb. 21, 2023); Santana, How Biden asylum rule affects immigration, compares to Trump, Wash. Post (Feb. 22, 2023).
 See n.1.