Inhumane and Counterproductive
Asylum Ban Inflicts Mounting Harm
Five months after the Biden administration initiated its new bar on asylum, the policy continues to strand vulnerable people in places where they are targets of widespread kidnapping, torture, and violent assaults. People seeking asylum are forced to risk their lives waiting in danger in Mexico for one of the limited CBP One appointments or risk suffering the ban’s punitive asylum denials or wrongful returns to harm and persecution if they attempt to seek protection at a port of entry or cross outside ports of entry without a CBP One appointment. The targeting of migrants and asylum seekers waiting for these appointments has risen sharply recently, driving many people to cross the border in urgent search of safety. Humanitarian workers assisting asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico are also facing alarming—and increasing—risks as well.
This harmful bar on asylum (the “asylum ban”) is a new iteration of similar transit and entry bans promulgated by the Trump administration that federal courts repeatedly struck down because they violated U.S. law. A federal district court ruled in July that the Biden asylum ban is unlawful, but it remains in place while on appeal. The asylum ban renders nearly all asylum seekers who traveled through another country on their way to the U.S. southern border ineligible for asylum due to their transit routes and/or manner of entry unless they (1) applied for and were denied asylum in one of those countries (regardless of their safety there), or (2) managed to secure one of the asylum ban’s limited “pre-scheduled” appointments to enter at an official port of entry. To try to get a U.S. port of entry appointment, people seeking asylum (as well as other migrants who are not seeking asylum) are left to struggle to obtain an appointment via CBP One, a smartphone app that operates much like a daily lottery and is plagued by deficiencies that impede equitable access.
Not only does the asylum ban violate both U.S. and international law, but it has generated strong and diverse opposition from faith groups, Holocaust survivors, major unions, civil rights organizations, members of the president’s political party and other key Biden administration allies. President Biden should honor his campaign promise to end such restrictions by bringing this harmful policy—which his administration has pledged is only temporary—to its end now. Every day that it is left in place, it endangers refugees’ lives and subverts refugee law.
Instead, the Biden administration should double down on some of the effective, humane, and legal policies that it has already initiated or announced, and reject those that punish, ban, and block people seeking asylum, contrary to core tenets of international refugee protection. Key steps include to: quickly ramp up plans to expand regional refugee resettlement, strengthen the administration’s pivotal parole initiatives, increase critical aid to address regional protection gaps driving many to flee north, urgently increase support for safe shelter and other dire needs of people waiting in Mexico, uphold fundamental human rights in regional migration coordination, maximize access to asylum at ports of entry, properly staff asylum and immigration court adjudications, and improve and restart use of the Biden administration’s new asylum processing rule to help adjudicate a greater number of asylum cases more efficiently.