The Biden administration will continue to immediately deport most migrants crossing the border without permission, but will allow some asylum seekers from Latin American countries to seek protection.
Biden also announced he would visit El Paso – his first trip to the southern border as president – on the Sunday before traveling to Mexico City. El Paso has made national headlines in recent weeks after thousands of people crossed the city’s borders, straining local and federal resources and forcing hundreds of migrants to sleep on the streets.
As part of a tiered plan he announced Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorcas said 30,000 people from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti would be released on parole in the country under current immigration laws as they seek help in the United States. States. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, this process allows an otherwise inadmissible individual to temporarily remain in the United States.
Migrants will have to apply for protection in their own countries, Mallorcas said at a press conference. They will also undergo background and security checks and will need a sponsor in the United States who can offer financial support. Applicants will also be required to complete vaccinations and other medical requirements.
The administration will retain a controversial Section 42 rule that allows for the immediate expulsion of migrants without the ability to apply for asylum. The Biden administration has attempted to end the policy that was introduced by the Trump administration in March 2020. But lawsuits from several Republican-led states, including Texas, upheld it. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide on the legality of the rule later this year.
The US will also continue to deport migrants under a separate rule called Section 8, which deports immigrants who have not been paroled or otherwise barred from entering the country. This includes migrants who avoid detection and cross the border between official ports of entry.
“This is important: if persons from these counties try to cross the US border without permission or the border of Mexico or Panama, after today they will not be eligible for this new legal route,” Mallorcas said. “So the message is clear: people should stay where they are and apply for these processes from there.”
Mallorcas added that DHS plans to propose a rule that would allow for a five-year entry ban for migrants who circumvent the new policy.
“Persons who bypass available, established routes to legal migration, and also do not seek protection in the country through which they traveled on their way to the United States, will be subject to a rebuttable presumption of ineligibility for asylum in the United States unless they meet the exception that will be listed,” he said.
The plan was met with immediate rebuke from immigrant rights groups and others.
“The Biden administration should take steps to restore asylum law at ports of entry, not double down on the brutal and counterproductive policies of the Trump script,” said Eleanor Aser, senior director of refugee advocacy at Human Rights First. “Every day this policy is in place, asylum seekers are turned away to face horrendous abuse. This undermining of human rights and refugee laws is a stain on the record of President Biden and his administration that will cause indelible harm to human lives, human rights and the refugee protection system around the world.”
The El Paso-based Center for Immigrant Advocacy in Las Americas has also criticized the policy as redundant and ineffective.
“As a containment approach, Section 42 is a failure. This has only pushed migrants to repeatedly cross the border in increasingly remote and dangerous areas,” said Marisa Limon Garza, chief executive of Las Americas. “Because of these policies, the lives and well-being of migrants are at risk due to kidnapping, smuggling, human trafficking and other human rights violations.”
She added that El Paso has seen firsthand how current policies only fuel a humanitarian crisis once migrants who elude detection enter the country.
“This has the indirect effect of complicating efforts to meet the basic humanitarian needs — food, shelter and sanitation — of this population,” Limon Garza said. “The expansion of Section 42 has made it more difficult to respond to events at the border in a safe, orderly and humane manner.”
Earlier Thursday, Biden said his ultimate goal was to team up with Republicans to tackle immigration in a comprehensive way that previous administrations had failed to achieve. But Biden said Republicans are not serious about moving forward on the issue and are instead using it to score political points.
“It is so easy to demagogue this issue,” he said. “This is not new. Part of that is human nature and fear. But there must be an organized way. And I know we can make it much, much better.”
Asked by reporters why his late Republican border visit is approaching now, Biden said he’d like to wait until he knows more about the outcome of the Section 42 trial. But since it’s still hanging on hair, he decided to come now.
“I wanted to make sure I knew what the outcome of the Section 42 case was, or at least was close to, before I was defeated,” he said. “I don’t like Section 42, but now it’s the law [and] I have to act within it.”
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