The San Ysidro Port of Entry in California is the busiest border crossing in the United States, but most of the immigrants who use it to seek asylum will be turned away under a controversial new immigration policy proposed by the Biden administration. The rule, which was proposed on Feb. 21 and is expected to take effect in May, would deny asylum to immigrants who traveled through any country other than Mexico on their way to the United States, and it has been harshly criticized by advocacy groups.
The Trump transit ban renamed
At first glance, Biden’s proposed immigration rule seems little different from a Trump policy that media outlets called the transit ban. Like the Trump measure, the Biden rule would require immigrants fleeing persecution and violence to seek asylum in the first safe country they reach instead of continuing on to the United States. The transit ban was struck down by the courts, and Biden’s proposal could share the same fate.
A court challenge seems likely
Human rights and advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service have called on the Biden administration to change course, and a court challenge seems likely if their calls go unanswered. White House officials claim that the proposed asylum rule differs from the Trump policy because it contains several humanitarian exemptions, but that argument has not gained much traction.
A better solution is needed
Tens of thousands of people flee dangerous and unstable countries in Central America and the Caribbean every month, and many of them leave with the intention of seeking asylum in the United States. Something must be done to help as many of these immigrants as possible without compromising the services that Americans rely on, but rehashing policies that have been struck down in federal court is not the answer.