EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Biden administration’s post-Title 42 plan is getting mixed reviews.
Immigration advocates from across the country on Thursday welcomed expanded pathways for refugees. That includes allowing more people fleeing their country to apply for refugee status in addition to political asylum.
But they worry about the U.S. turning away many who show up asking for protection at the border without an appointment. They’re also uncomfortable with plans to conduct make-or-break interviews of asylum-seekers while they are in custody at processing centers. And they are appalled that an asylum “travel ban” is included in the plan.
“We welcome the Biden administration’s commitment to expanding refugee resettlement and other regular pathways in the Americas,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. But “conducting credible fear interviews in Border Patrol custody and imposing the (travel ban) will turn a process designed to protect refugees into a sham process that quickly returns to danger refugees who are eligible for asylum under U.S. and international law.”
Title 42 is Trump-era public health rule that since March 2020 has allowed border agents to quickly expel ineligible migrants on public health grounds. The rule expires on May 11.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Thursday outlined the administration’s response. It includes continued reliance on online asylum applications through the CBP One app, the opening of regional processing centers in Central and South America and increased removal – with loss of future immigration benefits – to those who don’t have a lawful claim to stay in the U.S.
The administration is also making up to $290 million available so border communities like El Paso and others can mitigate the effects of tens of thousands of migrants passing through.
Mayorkas said the Department of Justice is surging immigration judges and asylum officers to expedite any possible logjams at the border and will utilize the proposed Circumvention of Lawful Pathways rule, which requires people on the move to apply for asylum at countries they pass through prior to being eligible for asylum in the U.S.
That is what the activists call the “travel ban” similar to the one challenged in federal court during the Trump administration.
“Today’s announcement includes important steps to create additional pathways for people seeking protection in the U.S. But such measures cannot come at the expense of access to asylum, no matter one’s origin or whether one arrives by plane or is forced to walk to the U.S. border,” said Welcome With Dignity Campaign interim manager Bilal Askaryar. “The administration must rescind its recently proposed rule that wills severely curtail asylum.”
Advocates like Guerline Josef, of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, question why the administration is routing migrants to apply for U.S. protection in countries like Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico and Panama when thousands of citizens from those nations are bolting to the U.S. for fear of their lives.
Meantime, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said the new measures were overdue.
“For decades, our country has chosen to address immigration as a border-only issue, an illogical, detrimental approach that has created great challenges at the border. I’m proud the White House has announced the expansion of in-country processing, something I have long called for,” she tweeted.