EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – House Democrats are urging the Biden administration to have asylum-seekers request U.S. immigration benefits in their own countries rather than make a dangerous 2,000-mile-plus trek.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the 22 House members praised President Joe Biden for “addressing root causes of migration” by sending more aid to Central America but said additional steps are needed to deter irregular migration.
“The administration must also focus resources on establishing legal and safe alternatives for individuals to apply for asylum, such as in-country asylum processing,” said the letter signed by House members including Texas U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar of El Paso and Sylvia Garcia of Houston, and Arizona U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva.
The lawmakers point to the Obama administration’s Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program as a model. The 2014 initiative allowed minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to apply for U.S. protections without leaving their country. Emergency in-country processing also has been used in Vietnam, Iraq and Cuba, the House members said.
“In-country asylum processing programs can humanely deter irregular migration to the United States that so often puts people at risk of harm or death,” the Democrats said, quoting the International Organization for Migration’s tally of 650 people dying in 2021 while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. “That is why we urge the State Department to work with (other federal agencies) to establish a robust in-country processing program across the Northern Triangle.”
The letter comes amid news reports out of Washington, D.C., stating the Biden administration is worried about a major spike in illegal immigration if it lifts the Title 42 public health rule that empowers immigration agencies to immediately deport newly arrived migrants and keeps foreign nationals from walking up to U.S. ports of entry and applying for asylum.
U.S. immigration agents have expelled 1 million of the more than 2 million unauthorized foreign nationals who have crossed the border from Mexico in the last year.
Axios reported the administration is establishing a “war room” to respond to sudden new immigration and public safety contingencies at the Southern border. The administration reportedly is bracing for the arrival of at least 170,000 new migrants should Title 42 end, likely in early April.
“Requiring people, often with limited resources, to abandon their homes and undertake a dangerous journey just for the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States is senseless and irresponsible,” the lawmakers said. “The U.S. is needlessly endangering people who want a better life for themselves and their families. We cannot wait for the situation in Central America to further deteriorate before seriously considering in-country processing programs.”