The Biden administration is putting up a fight to keep its restrictive asylum policies in place, arguing that reversing them would cause major chaos at the border. A panel of judges in Pasadena, California, including two Clinton appointees and one Trump appointee, is being pressured to overturn a ruling from July that blocked the new asylum restrictions. These restrictions make it much harder for migrants to qualify for asylum unless they first apply online or seek protection in another country, like Mexico. Despite opposition, the restrictions have remained in place throughout the appeals process.
However, this battle over asylum eligibility comes at a time when Senate Republicans are pushing for significant changes to the asylum system as part of Biden’s request for military aid to Ukraine and Israel. The Biden administration argues that its approach is different from Trump’s because they are also creating new legal pathways for entry and making exceptions. Immigrant advocacy groups, such as the ACLU and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, see these policies as recycled Trump-era practices that go against U.S. law, which allows anyone to seek asylum regardless of how and where they arrive.
Biden administration warns of major disruption at border if judges halt asylum rule https://t.co/Frw9ONZyUd
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) November 8, 2023
To address the backlog and streamline the process, the Biden administration introduced a mobile app in January that allows asylum-seekers to schedule appointments at official border crossings with Mexico. Additionally, they have allowed up to 30,000 individuals per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to pursue asylum if they apply online and have a sponsor. The government claims these new pathways are a significant departure from Trump’s policies. Justice Department attorney Brian Boynton pointed out that 12% of asylum-seekers subject to the new rule were able to avoid it by proving exceptional circumstances, such as a medical emergency or being a victim of human trafficking.
Despite the Biden administration’s arguments, the ACLU argues that the exceptions are minimal and the majority of asylum-seekers are still required to enter the country through an official point of entry. They insist that adopting substantive asylum bars is not a valid solution. The new restrictions did initially result in a decrease in illegal crossings from Mexico, but arrests have gradually increased since then. In fact, September saw arrests reaching almost an all-time monthly high. Blas Nuñez-Neto, the assistant Homeland Security secretary for border and immigration policy, stressed the critical nature of the asylum restrictions, as approval rates for initial screenings significantly dropped after their implementation.
Regardless of the outcome, the Biden administration seems determined to fight for its asylum policies. Even if the judges rule against them, the administration is prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court. It’s clear that this battle over immigration policy is far from over.