EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Biden administration’s proposed rules for asylum-seekers present a new obstacle for the poor and those who already fled persecution in their countries, immigration advocates said.

The administration has started the process to discourage foreign nationals in need of protection from embarking on a dangerous trip by having them apply remotely. The rule imposes severe limitations on granting asylum to those who travel through a third country to reach the U.S., who don’t have an American sponsor or failed to apply for protection in that other country. The administration is making the change in anticipation of the expected May 11 sunset of Title 42 public health expulsions.

Guerline Josef

“By creating those obstacles, it creates a ripe eco-system for smugglers and human traffickers to flourish. It is literally the opposite of what the administration is trying to do. People will find alternative ways to get protection,” said Guerline Josef, co-founder and executive director of the San Diego-based Haitian Bridge Alliance. “This will absolutely push them into the hands of coyotes and smugglers and people with bad intentions.”

In a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday, the advocates said the new rules fail to consider that the poor are the ones who usually flee oppressive regimes. Often, they don’t have all the documents required to start a complex remote asylum process – a Venezuelan passport, for instance, costs between $105 and $210. Also, they have little contact with the United States, so they lack the required sponsor.   

And the countries migrants from the Western Hemisphere usually travel through are ill-prepared to provide them with long-term refuge.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah

“To have them apply for asylum in transit countries is ludicrous. These are countries that have seen their own citizens flee climate disasters,” political oppression and violence, said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. “We urge President Biden to reverse course on a rule that (excludes) the neediest. Instead of suppressing migration, he should manage migration.”

The advocates continuously referred to the new rules as a “travel ban.” They said it’s a tweaked version of rules President Donald Trump tried to put in place a few years ago and were blocked by federal courts.

“We don’t believe the proposed rule is lawful in any way and intend to sue if it goes through,” said Lee Gelernt, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. He said the courts struck down Trump because he failed to provide the 30-day public comment period that the Biden proposal does include, and because an outright ban on asylum for those who fail to present themselves for inspection at a port of entry ran contrary to laws previously passed by Congress.

“Sometimes people don’t know where the port is, (or) criminal organizations pushed them to cross between ports of entry […] If they’re in imminent danger they should apply for asylum” no matter how they came into the country, he said.

The third-country asylum application requisite could place vulnerable populations in mortal danger, the advocates said.

“People are beaten, raped and killed for their gender orientation. The idea you can file for asylum in countries that are not friendly is senseless and cruel and will result in the deaths of LGBTQ” individuals, said Aaron Morris, executive director of Immigration Equality, a New York-based advocacy organization. “This rule strips them of their right to a day in court and submits them to years of additional persecution.”

The rules provide exemptions for those who have been victims of severe forms of human trafficking. That includes sex trafficking, involuntary servitude and the use of force and threats.

The groups said they will rally supporters and the general public to vigorously participate in the 30-day comment period. They also plan to hold a protest in front of the White House on Thursday.