US President Joe Biden has once again turned to ineffective and deadly deterrence policies at the United States’ southwest border, proposing a rule last week that rights groups have labeled an “asylum ban” due to its unconscionable narrowing of access to protection. The rule would take effect after a 30-day public comment period.
Through its “presumption of asylum ineligibility for certain noncitizens,” Biden’s new rule combines a version of former President Donald Trump’s “third country transit ban” – a policy Biden once campaigned against and a federal judge ruled unlawful – with additional asylum restrictions, including the expansion of what is effectively an electronic metering system. A US federal judge ruled metering illegal because it violates due process rights, and the practice also violates international standards protecting asylum seekers.
The policy would allow the Biden administration to continue turning back most people seeking protection at the US southern border, either to their home countries or to Mexico, unless they already applied for asylum and were rejected in Mexico or another country through which they traveled on their way to the border. The policy would create an exception for asylum seekers who wait in Mexico for many months while trying to obtain a limited number of appointments at the border. These appointments would be available only through a privacy-intrusive and internet-dependent cellphone application used by Customs and Border Protection called CBP One, which facial recognition technology that has been shown to reinforce racial discrimination in law enforcement and has driven family separation.
Metering asylum seekers, or forcing them to wait to seek asylum, is illegal for good reason. When asylum seekers are turned away or made to wait in dangerous Mexican border cities, they face serious harm at the hands of criminal organizations, including kidnapping, extortion, physical violence, and sexual assault.
The plight of asylum seekers is often urgent and their right to seek protection anywhere across the border should be defended. Just last month, a Haitian child died while waiting for his CBP One appointment.
Likewise, when asylum seekers are unfairly denied protection and returned to danger, as they will be if this rule takes effect, they can face persecution, torture, and death.
Biden should immediately end the use of CBP One and stop expanding and reviving abusive Trump-era policies like metering. All arriving migrants, regardless of how they enter the US, have a right to claim asylum under US law. Biden should instead expand safe processes to include people fleeing harmful effects of climate change, returning to places in the US where they resided for many years, or reuniting with family.