EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A coalition of faith and immigration advocacy leaders is calling on the Biden administration to drop a proposed rule forcing asylum-seekers to apply for protection while remaining in countries where their lives are at risk.

The administration last month published the rule pending a 30-day review and public comment period. The rule and recent remote-application requirements for Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans are meant to restore order to a Southwest border where migrants were coming across the river and lining at the border wall by the thousands every day. Regulations also require asylum-seekers to secure a financial sponsor in the U.S. before coming.

The advocates have reviewed the rule and fear it will presume to be ineligible for asylum anyone who comes to a U.S. port of entry without an appointment, even if they’re literally “running for their lives abroad.” Those who cross the border between ports of entry also will be disqualified, barring extraordinary circumstances.

“We are here to speak up unanimously against the rule,” said Bilal Askaryar, of the Welcome with Dignity Campaign. “Like during (President) Trump, this rule will block them from asylum and asylum hearings through expedited removal.”

The advocates spoke of numerous instances in which migrants were unable to petition for an appointment using the CBP One app, which offers only a few appointments per day, is not available in many languages and has had numerous technical glitches.

“These new rules proposed by our administration don’t recognize the needs of people who are running for their lives. They seem to think we can just get online, arrange for a sponsor and have all those who are fleeing sit back until it happens,” El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz said.

The Most Rev. Mark Seitz, the Catholic bishop of El Paso, Texas, speaks during an interview on the grounds of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)

Seitz said church leaders in El Paso have set up a Border Refugee Assistance Fund that has provided more than $500,000 to shelters in Juarez, across the border from El Paso.

“We knew our responsibility to our immigrant brothers and sisters did not end at the border and that the need would be so much greater in Mexico, where the resources would be so much less,” he said.

Seitz said helping those fleeing danger in their home countries, sometimes alone but often with their families in tow, is a moral obligation and a policy that has distinguished the United States as “a beacon of hope” for many decades.

“This country is capable of so much more. This is not simply a problem for those who are fleeing other countries; this is a problem for us, for the soul of America,” he said.

This country is capable of so much more. This is not simply a problem for those who are fleeing other countries; this is a problem for us, for the soul of America.”

El Paso Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, went further, comparing the Trump and Biden migration policies to edicts issued long ago in Sodom and Gomorrah.

The two cities of Judeo-Christian lore were not only known for their depravity but also for their cruelty to strangers they thought were only coming to benefit from their resources, Jacobs said.

 “They (inflicted) wanton cruelty against foreigners and punishment against anyone who offered relief. We are becoming like Sodom,” she said. “We refuse to callously send our fellow human beings back to the dangers they are trying to flee. We are going to be loud in our insistence that every single person deserves safety and dignity until there is a just and transparent system to let asylum seekers into the United States.”

Jacobs said 15 rabbis visited El Paso and Juarez late last year and witnessed “the horrible treatment of asylum-seekers.” That included families being turned back at ports of entry and having to cross the Rio Grande sometimes carrying small children.

“They saw with their own eyes the injustices of an asylum system that forces them to pursue dangerous and sometimes deadly paths to safety,” she said. “Our rabbis stood and watched as people walked through the river, sometimes holding their children to get to safety because that was what they had to do to protect their families. I join faith communities and people of conscience in United States to condemn this asylum ban.”