Lives at Risk: Barriers and Harms As Biden Asylum Ban Takes Effect

From May 10-12, 2023, a delegation of human, civil, and immigrants’ rights leaders led by the Haitian Bridge Alliance visited the Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas to bear witness to the end of the Title 42 policy and the implementation of punitive policies along the border, including the Biden administration’s new asylum ban.

In Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas, the delegation saw firsthand the difficulties that people seeking asylum face when attempting to secure appointments at U.S. ports of entry via the CBP One app; the barriers some face waiting and trying to seek asylum at ports of entry without a CBP One appointment; the squalid and inhumane living conditions of migrants at the border; and the violence and anti-Black racism that people seeking asylum endure while waiting in Mexico. The delegation members spoke to hundreds of people waiting to seek asylum. It was clear that they wanted to follow the U.S. process to seek asylum at ports of entry, but face major impediments.

These barriers include:

  • the lack of critical information about the highly complex U.S. immigration process;
  • the lack of smart phones, internet, language access, and technical assistance to use the CBP One app;
  • the unduly limited number of CBP One appointments;
  • U.S. refusals to process many people waiting without appointments to request protection at ports of entry;
  • Mexican government intervention to limit or prevent asylum seekers from waiting in line to seek U.S protection at ports of entry;
  • the absence of a transparent and non-discriminatory process for asylum seekers without appointments to request protection at ports of entry as required by U.S. refugee law;
  • the horrific human rights abuses suffered and risked while left waiting in highly dangerous areas of Mexico;
  • and the unsanitary, unsafe and inhumane conditions in many of the encampments and areas where asylum seekers are at risk as they wait to try to follow processes to seek asylum at U.S. ports of entry.

U.S. officials appear to be touting their use of what they frame, in a dehumanizing approach, as the “stick” or “consequences” of the asylum ban as the reason for reduced crossings after the end of Title 42. Yet from the aid workers, faith visitors, legal services providers, and countless people seeking asylum we spoke with, it was clear there was little to no knowledge of the new asylum ban. Instead, people seeking asylum were struggling to comprehend the process on how to seek protection at ports of entry.

The use of the Biden administration’s new asylum ban against people seeking asylum imposes yet another barrier. As detailed in the many public comments opposing the proposed rule, the asylum ban will lead to returns to persecution and chain refoulement that violate international law, denial of asylum to people who are otherwise eligible for it under U.S laws enacted by Congress, and the deprivation of a path to citizenship for many refugees denied asylum due to the ban. UNHCR has warned that the asylum ban violates international refugee law binding on the United States and places refugees “at risk of persecution and/or death.” A process that leaves refugees at risk or in long-term limbo and violates U.S. and international law is neither humane nor “orderly.”

The delegation included leaders and experts from Haitian Bridge Alliance, the ACLU, Amnesty International, Amnesty International USA, Human Rights First, NILC, NIJC, Tahirih Justice Center, UndocuBlack Network, and the #WelcomeWithDignity campaign for asylum rights, and experts on the delegation drafted this report.

The delegation thanks the refugees and migrants, humanitarian, faith-based, shelter and other workers and volunteers it met on this visit.


Published on May 18, 2023


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