The Biden administration is not backing down in its fight to enforce strict asylum restrictions. On Tuesday, the administration requested that an appeals court uphold these new policies, warning that any interference would cause significant disruption at the border. The case is being heard by a panel of judges in Pasadena, California, with two of them appointed by President Bill Clinton and one by President Donald Trump. The new asylum restrictions, which were implemented earlier this year, make it much more challenging for migrants to qualify for asylum if they did not first apply online or seek protection in another country before entering the United States. The restrictions have remained in place while the appeal is ongoing.
While the judges have yet to make a ruling, the arguments come at a time when Senate Republicans are pushing for substantial changes to asylum eligibility. These changes are being proposed as part of President Biden’s request for military aid to Ukraine and Israel. The Biden administration argues that its approach to asylum differs from the previous administration’s because it also creates new legal pathways to enter the country and includes exceptions. However, advocacy groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and National Immigrant Justice Center, argue that these exceptions are just recycled Trump-era policies that violate U.S. law.
Biden administration warns of major disruption at border if judges halt asylum rule https://t.co/ImviMzxy1h
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To provide alternatives, the Biden administration introduced a mobile app earlier this year that allows asylum-seekers to make appointments at official border crossings with Mexico. Additionally, the administration has allowed thousands of asylum-seekers per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to pursue asylum if they apply online and have a financial sponsor. These new options for seeking asylum are seen by the administration as a significant departure from the Trump administration’s policies. Justice Department attorney Brian Boynton highlighted that a small percentage of asylum-seekers have been able to avoid the new restrictions by demonstrating exceptional circumstances, such as medical emergencies or being victims of human trafficking. However, ACLU attorney Spencer Amdur argues that the majority of asylum-seekers are still required to enter at an official point of entry and that substantive asylum bars should not be adopted.
The impact of these asylum restrictions is evident in the decline in illegal crossings from Mexico, although the decrease was short-lived. While arrests have not reached the daily highs seen earlier this year, there was a significant increase in September, approaching record levels from December 2022. This marks the second year in a row that annual arrests have exceeded 2 million. Blas Nuñez-Neto, assistant Homeland Security secretary for border and immigration policy, stated in a separate case that the asylum restrictions are crucial, as approval rates on initial asylum screenings have dropped significantly since their implementation.
The Biden administration is prepared to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, as hinted by Boynton, the Justice Department attorney. The fate of these asylum restrictions hangs in the balance as the appeals court deliberates on their legality and impact.