This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.
The Biden administration issued a new proposed rule that it called “temporary,” which introduces a “rebuttable presumption of asylum ineligibility for certain noncitizens who neither avail themselves of a lawful, safe and orderly pathway to the United States nor seek asylum or other protection in a country through which they travel.” The administration said the rule would deter migrants from relying on human smuggling networks, protect against extreme overcrowding in border facilities and help to ensure that the processing of migrants seeking protection in the United States “is done in an effective, humane and efficient manner.”
The administration said the proposed rule was being issued in advance of the expected termination of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Title 42 public health order related to the COVID-19 pandemic and a consequent potential surge of migration into the United States via the southwest border. The CDC is expected to terminate its public health order on May 11, 2023, and the administration anticipates returning at that time to processing all noncitizens under Title 8 immigration authorities once Title 42 is terminated.
The proposed rule’s executive summary notes that U.S. officials’ encounters with noncitizens attempting to cross the southwest border into the United States without authorization “have reached an all-time high” even with the Title 42 public health order in place, “driven in large part by an unprecedented exodus of migrants from countries such as Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela.” The summary provides as an example that during a 30-day period ending on December 24, 2022, the total daily encounters along the southwest border “consistently fluctuated between approximately 7,100 and 9,700 per day, averaging approximately 8,500 per day, with encounters exceeding 9,000 per day on 12 different occasions during this 30-day stretch.”
A Biden administration official reportedly said the new regulation constituted “temporary measures” and was done “out of necessity.” An administration statement from the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice lamented “the absence of congressional action to update a very broken, outdated immigration system.”
Advocates object the new regulation. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) said the “transit ban” is “unworkable and a violation of U.S. asylum law.” In a letter to President Biden last month, AILA President Jeremy McKinney and Executive Director Benjamin Johnson urged him to reconsider. They pointed to President Biden’s promise made during his presidential campaign to safeguard America’s commitment to asylum protection. Among other things, Mr. McKinney noted that “the countries through which people are fleeing are not ‘safe third countries’ by any stretch of the imagination, according to the U.S. State Department’s own reporting.” Mr. Johnson said, “This regulation is a clear violation of the rights of migrants under U.S. law to seek protection from persecution, regardless of how they enter the United States. The Biden Administration claims asylum will still be available under this regulation, but the so-called ‘rebuttable presumptions’ they propose will not provide sufficient opportunity for people in dire need to apply. It is absurd to expect asylum applicants who rarely have legal assistance to be able to rebut the presumptive bar set by this new rule and qualify for asylum protection.”
Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by March 27, 2023.