Texas

New return rules for asylum seekers worry migrant advocates

South Texas leaders urge Biden to also visit Rio Grande valley

McALLEN, Texas (border report). On Thursday, the Biden administration announced new rules for Nicaraguan, Cuban and Haitian asylum seekers trying to cross the southwestern border, but migrant advocates fear the new return restrictions are too harsh and resemble the Trump administration. .

The new enforcement rules came after President Joe Biden said he would visit the border in El Paso on Sunday. This will be Biden’s first visit to the southwestern border and comes after repeated calls from border leaders and politicians on both sides of the aisle saying the situation is out of control.

Under the new rules, the Department of Homeland Security will establish new ways for citizens of these three countries to apply to enter the United States. This includes completing online applications through a new app on CBPOne to make an in-person meeting for migrants to present themselves at ports of entry.

Asylum seekers must go through a rigorous vetting process; prove that they have financial and other support in the United States; and comply with all necessary vaccinations and sanitary requirements.

This is similar to the program launched in October for Venezuelans, which Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorcas said Thursday has resulted in a “drastic reduction – by 90% – in the number of Venezuelans encountered on our southwestern border.”

At a press conference held in Washington, D.C., just minutes after Biden’s border press conference, Majorcas touted the new plan, saying that “People who are provided with a safe, orderly, and legal route to the United States are less likely to risk their lives crossing thousands of miles at the hands of ruthless smugglers.”

But those who do not legally follow this path face expulsion to Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mallorcas (right) stands next to Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Troy Miller (left) during a press conference in Washington on Thursday, January 5, 2023 on new border control measures to curb illegal migration and expand ways for legal immigration and improved border security. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Up to 30,000 migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela who are not eligible for asylum in the US will be returned and accepted by Mexico per month under new DHS plans announced Thursday.

Majorcas said up to 30,000 people who qualify will be legally admitted and allowed to reside in the United States for up to two years with work permits issued.

Migrant advocates say the number is too low and vulnerable asylum seekers face an uncertain future under the new policy.

“The Biden administration should take steps to restore asylum law at ports of entry rather than doubling down on the brutal and counterproductive policies of the Trump script,” said Eleanor Aser, senior director of refugee advocacy at Human Rights First. “Issuing bans on asylum, removal or other punitive action against people seeking asylum at the US border is a violation of both US refugee law and the Refugee Convention. Venezuela’s asylum ban is not a model, but a humanitarian disgrace. Every day that this policy is in place, asylum seekers are turned away in order to endure terrible abuses.”

“Limited access to humanitarian parole cannot replace the asylum protection guaranteed by US and international law. This will provide only temporary protection to a small fraction of the millions of people forced to flee their homes,” said Krish O’Mara Vinyaraja, President and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Sunil Varghese, political director of the International Refugee Program, said Biden and his administration are trying to score political points at the border by “actively pursuing discredited Trump policies like Section 42 and the asylum ban.”

“The opening of new limited pathways for a small percentage of people does not hide the fact that the Biden administration is illegally and immorally restricting access to humanitarian protection for the majority of people who have already left their country in search of freedom and security,” Varghese said. in a statement. “The Administration must change course immediately.”

“Seeking safety is the right of everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, country or language. Eligibility for asylum should not depend on how you avoid danger or your financial situation,” said Mary Miller Flowers, senior policy analyst at the Youth Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights.

Majorcas defended the plan, saying Biden would build on it when he travels to Mexico City next week for a summit of North American leaders where he meets with Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Hemispheric problems require hemispheric solutions, and we are working with governments across the region,” said Mallorcas, who announced he would travel with Biden to El Paso on Sunday.

Venezuelan and Nicaraguan migrants are ferried by border agents after crossing the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas, to seek political asylum December 27, 2022. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Many migrant groups on Thursday called the new policy a mere extension of Section 42 to citizens from these additional countries, many of whom are fleeing violence, poverty and corrupt governments in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

“We are very disappointed by the announcement that the administration is moving forward with a ‘transit ban’ that will drastically limit asylum seekers’ legal rights to seek protection at the southern border. Similarly, we oppose any expansion of the use of Section 42, a public health authority that has been used from the beginning to enforce borders,” said Sergio Gonzalez, executive director of the Immigration Center.

El Paso has been the epicenter of migrant activity for weeks, with thousands of asylum seekers crossing the Rio Grande from Juarez, Mexico to the west Texas city before Texas National Guard and Border Patrol troops and barbed wire were put up in the city. the border is there.

An aerial view of migrants camping on the banks of the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on November 15, 2022. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a McAllen Democrat representing South Texas, said he was “grateful for the new measures that have just been announced.”

Gonzalez and Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez invited Biden to also visit the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.

“I urge the President to also visit the Rio Grande Valley and speak with local leaders as no two communities are the same requiring different approaches and resources. We cannot continue to rely on outdated systems from 10 to 20 years ago to solve the ever-changing problems of today. We must continue to address issues not only at our southern border, but with our immigration system as a whole,” Gonzalez said.

Cortez hopes the visit to El Paso will “highlight the challenges facing frontier communities and the need for comprehensive immigration reform, and highlight the need for Congressional action.”

Gonzalez proposed the Safe Zones Act, which would allow migrants to apply for U.S. asylum in their home countries, as well as the creation of an application zone on the Guatemala-Mexico border.

Sandra Sanchez can be contacted at [email protected]

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