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Tue, Jul

Biden Can’t Fix Our Immigration System By Banning Asylum

GUEST WORDS

IMMIGRATION WATCH -

[Shutting down the border to asylum seekers is cruel, ineffective, and plainly illegal. We need to put human dignity — and the law — first.] 

President Biden once pledged to adopt more humane immigration policies than his predecessor. 

But in practice, as immigrant rights advocates have documented, his administration has escalated the attack on the legal right of people facing life-threatening conditions to seek safety. Even though this right is guaranteed regardless of how asylum seekers enter the country, he has sought to restrict access to ports of entry.

Under both U.S. and international law, anyone fleeing persecution in another country has a right to request asylum and have their claim assessed. But both the Trump and Biden administrations have dramatically undermined these protections.

Most recently, Biden’s executive order and accompanying federal rule on “Securing the Border” — which effectively closed the U.S.-Mexico border this June — all but suspended the right to asylum altogether.

The new rule bars asylum access for the vast majority of people once the daily average of border crossings reaches 2,500 between ports of entry for seven consecutive days — a completely arbitrary figure with no basis in law.

In addition, while the ban is in effect Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents will no longer screen arriving asylum seekers at the border to see if they have a reasonable fear of returning to their home countries. Instead, the burden is on individuals and families to “manifest” their fear of persecution to CBP agents, who have a known record of intimidating asylum seekers. And the majority will have to do so without legal assistance.

The executive action relies on a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that President Trump previously invoked and resembles his unlawful attempts to ban asylum seekers — which the courts repeatedly struck down. The same statute makes it crystal clear that any person arriving on U.S. soil may request asylum regardless of their manner of entry. 

Returning people back to countries where they could face persecution, torture, or other irreparable harm is not only illegal, but cruel and immoral. Nor will it “restore order” at the border. If anything, Biden’s crackdown on asylum will only create more panic and confusion. 

As political and economic conditions continue to deteriorate in Haiti, Venezuela, and throughout Central America, more and more people are being displaced. Biden’s order essentially forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, where they are exploited by cartels and other criminals, or else deports them back to places where they’ll face harm.

Like previous presidents, Biden has ignored the root causes of forced displacement. 

We must begin by re-examining U.S. policies toward our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean. Our trade policies and sanctions (like those against Venezuela) have devastated local economies. And many have fled the violence and repression of U.S.-backed authoritarian governments across the region.

Fully “shutting down” the border would be physically impossible. Efforts to do so have merely produced a costly, militarized border security and detention apparatus that punishes people for requesting asylum — and has a vested interest in never fixing our broken immigration system.

Instead, we need a just and humane approach grounded in law and the inherent dignity of all people. 

Common sense measures should include improving the arrival process at ports of entry, ensuring that asylum applications are reviewed promptly and fairly, hiring more asylum officers and properly staffing immigration courts to address backlogs, providing access to legal counsel, and establishing more legal pathways to citizenship.

Seeking asylum from persecution is a fundamental human right that transcends borders and partisan politics. America has a long tradition of providing a safe haven for the persecuted. We must not lose sight of this value in our immigration policies. 

(Farrah Hassen, J.D., is a writer, policy analyst, and adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science at Cal Poly Pomona. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.)