Biden Administration offers mixed — and disappointing — steps on immigration.
On January 5, 2023, the Biden Administration announced new border enforcement measures aimed at increasing security at the border and reducing the number of individuals crossing unlawfully. The first policy announced is two-fold: it includes a new pathway for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans with the requirement of having U.S.- based sponsors to enter the United States. This new program of temporary admission, called “parole,” will offer some people the opportunity to enter the U.S. legally.
But also announced is an expansion of Title 42, a policy that allows for the rapid expulsion of individuals back to those same countries without the opportunity to apply for asylum. This means that Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans attempting to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border will now be turned away if they did not go through the parole program first.
Parole is not asylum and it does not offer any ability to remain permanently or lawfully in the United States. Parole does have employment authorization attached to it, but there is often a prolonged delay in accessing employment authorization. While we applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to offer new ways for people to come lawfully to the United States, we are concerned about it being paired with enforcement measures that cut off asylum access at the border for thousands of migrants fleeing violence and disaster who do not have the economic means to qualify for the new parole program. It is incredibly harmful for the U.S. government to attach the denial of asylum access to the development of any pathway.
The program announced by the Biden Administration is similar to that offered to Venezuelans last October, which provided asylum seekers with a legal pathway as long as they had a sponsor in the United States and had the financial means to secure a passport and fly to the United States. This program will be capped at 30,000 parole grants per month, divided among all three nationalities along with Venezuelans. Once they receive parole, they will be able to come to the U.S. for a period of two years and will receive work authorization. However, people who do not come to the U.S. under the parole program or try to enter without inspection or do not seek protection in countries they travel to on the way to the U.S. will be expelled back to Mexico and banned from seeking asylum in the future.
This narrow parole program will only grant asylum to a select few who can garner a passport, a U.S. sponsor, and a plane ticket. All of these imposed requirements disregard the dire conditions in which most people seeking asylum are living and will force them to remain in the dangerous conditions they seek to flee. This means only a privileged few will benefit from this program, leaving the most vulnerable behind.
Many critics are concerned that the expansion of Title 42 and the new transit ban will further erode the legal right to seek asylum and put many more people in danger, particularly Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ people. Also, under the U.S. and international law, people fleeing persecution are not required to have a sponsor or connection in the United States to seek protection here. They also do not need a passport, or a plane ticket. Any person arriving at a U.S. border is entitled to seek asylum protection under the plain text of U.S. law.
In addition, the Biden Administration will be expanding rapid deportations of migrants without any immigration court hearings and will increase the use of the CBP One, a mobile application that collects biometrics data from migrants prior to arriving at the border. The CBP One mobile application will allow individuals to schedule an appointment to present themselves for inspection and to initiate a protection claim instead of coming directly to a port of entry to wait. The end goal is to reduce wait times and overcrowding at U.S. ports of entry.
The Biden Administration’s effort to pair the new parole program with an expansion of Title 42 comes somewhat as of a trade-off to make the asylum process more orderly. However, parole will allow fewer asylum seekers to enter the United States while Title 42 will punish the vast majority of people seeking protection. Title 42 and expedited removal violate due process and law; they serve as a reminder that the U.S. must have a comprehensive and just immigration system that recognizes the dignity and rights of all people.
As a nation of immigrants, we must expand safe, legal pathways to the U.S. while maintaining order at our Southern border. Expanding the use of Title 42 is inhumane and is a Trump-era policy that disproportionately harms Black and Brown migrants. The right to seek asylum is a fundamental human right and we have a moral obligation to establish a system that treats all migrants in a safe and humane way.
The Coalition on Human Needs has signed a letter calling on the Biden Administration to end the imposition of additional restrictions on asylum seekers traveling through other countries and to abandon the misguided pursuit of an asylum ban. In addition, we have joined more than 200 organizations to send a letter to House members urging them to vote no on the “Border Safety and Security Act” and all subsequent anti-immigrant legislation, including bills that criminalize and target immigrants. Read full text here.