A former Biden White House official says that a new asylum rule announced by the administration normalizes white nationalist beliefs about migrants — part of a wave of left-wing criticism hitting the administration over the proposed rule.
“When I joined the Biden Administration, we cared about preserving access to asylum, not only because it was the law, but because we had evidence that banning new asylum seekers was not an operational solution to the challenge of irregular migration,” Andrea Flores tweeted.
“Today, rather than make progress on addressing regional mass migration, the Biden Administration has resurrected a transit ban that normalizes the white nationalist belief that asylum seekers from certain countries are less deserving of humanitarian protections,” she said.
Flores, who worked in the Obama and Biden administrations on immigration matters, was reacting to the announcement of a new proposed rule on Tuesday.
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That rule would make migrants automatically presumed to be ineligible for asylum if they have crossed into the U.S. illegally and have also failed to claim asylum in a country through which they have already traveled.
Unaccompanied children are exempt, and there would be other factors that could rebut the presumption, including an acute medical emergency, being a trafficking victim, and facing an “extreme and imminent” threat to life or safety.
Migrants can still enter the U.S. to claim asylum if they have been denied by a third country, if they present themselves at a port of entry after scheduling an appointment via the new CBP One App or if they are paroled into the U.S. They can also challenge the presumption.
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The policy is a temporary two-year policy and designed to replace the Title 42 public order, which has been used to quickly expel migrants due to the COVID-19 emergency and is due to end on May 11.
Immigration advocates and Democrats have reacted with dismay to the policy, which is similar to the “transit ban” which was proposed by the Trump administration and ultimately blocked by the courts. Administration officials have repeatedly rejected comparisons to the transit ban, citing the existence and expansion of legal pathways available to migrants. They have argued that, unlike in the Trump administration, pathways remain open to claim asylum.
“We are a nation of immigrants, and we are a nation of laws. We are strengthening the availability of legal, orderly pathways for migrants to come to the United States, at the same time proposing new consequences on those who fail to use processes made available to them by the United States and its regional partners,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
“As we have seen time and time again, individuals who are provided a safe, orderly, and lawful path to the United States are less likely to risk their lives traversing thousands of miles in the hands of ruthless smugglers, only to arrive at our southern border and face the legal consequences of unlawful entry,” he said.
But that explanation has failed to satisfy activists, who have accused the administration of chipping away at a right to asylum.
“For an Administration that strives to uphold racial equity, it is deeply disheartening to watch them normalize the dehumanizing narrative that Black and brown migrants at the southern border deserve to be punished for seeking out a legal pathway that Congress provided for them,” Flores tweeted.
“Our asylum system is deeply broken, just as broken as the rest of our immigration system. But this new transit ban & CBP One will do nothing to reduce the legal and operational failures of the current system,” she said.
Flores’ criticism was similar to Democrats in both the House and the Senate, who have also criticized the policy.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Administration has chosen to move forward with publishing this proposed rule, which only perpetuates the harmful myth that asylum seekers are a threat to this nation,” Sens. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, Cory Booker, D-NJ, Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M and Alex Padilla, D-Calif., said in a statement.
“In reality, they are pursuing a legal pathway in the United States. We have an obligation to protect vulnerable migrants under domestic and international law and should not leave vulnerable migrants stranded in countries unable to protect them. We urge President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas to reverse course and pave a better path forward that protects the right to asylum while addressing the real operational challenges at our Southern Border.”