Biden’s Asylum Ban is a Death Sentence for Refugees

WASHINGTON – Human Rights First condemned the Biden administration’s decision to enact a final rule that will illegally ban many refugees from asylum protections in the United States.

“The Biden administration’s decision to replace one unlawful Trump policy with a different one is an abysmal abdication of leadership and a legal, moral, and political mistake,” said Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First. “On the campaign trail, Biden unequivocally pledged to restore asylum. What a broken promise. Even recent changes in the final rule fail to remedy this policy’s fundamental illegality and inhumanity.

“The use of this new asylum bar in expedited removals will turn protection screening into a sham process to rapidly deport refugees who qualify for asylum under our laws,” added Acer. “The Biden administration should rescind this rule and instead focus on humane and effective measures like sharply increasing asylum capacity at ports of entry, escalating adjudication and humanitarian reception capacities, and strengthening regular pathways to the United States.”

Modeled on prior Trump administration asylum bans that were repeatedly struck down by federal courts, Biden’s asylum ban rule makes refugees ineligible for asylum based on how they enter the United States and whether they applied for protection in a country they transited through on their way to the United States, in clear violation of U.S. asylum law. This rule withdraws the Trump-era entry and transit bans, but it implements aspects of both.  While Human Rights First has welcomed the Biden administration’s commitment to expand regular pathways and the end of Title 42, such steps should not simultaneously be used to curtail the human and legal right to seek asylum.

The proposed rule was met with widespread backlash. In the mere 30 days allowed for public comment, more than 51,000 comments were filed by a diverse array of individuals and organizations in opposition to the proposed rule. The vast majority of comments opposed the ban, including those from Black-led, civil rights and LGBTQ+ organizations; major unions; Catholic Bishops; rabbis; Holocaust survivors and their families; the asylum officers’ union; former immigration judges; the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR); and 82 Members of Congress from the president’s own party. Anti-immigrant hate groups, in contrast, welcomed the proposed ban.

“The Biden administration’s new bar on asylum is a disgraceful flouting of refugee law that will have global consequences,” Acer added. “Instead of encouraging other countries to host refugees, the rule green-lights evasions of refugee law and human rights around the world.”

Human Rights First published analyses detailing the harms the proposed ban would inflict and submitted a public comment in opposition to it.  Human Rights First also issued a report documenting the harms caused by the Trump administration’s asylum transit ban.  The organization’s public materials responding to both administrations’ asylum bans are available at

Human Rights First issued reports detailing human rights abuses caused by Title 42 and other policies that block refugees from asylum, and repeatedly detailed its recommendations to the Biden administration.  All of Human Rights First’s responses to Title 42 are available at


Published on May 10, 2023


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