EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Immigration advocates are mobilizing supporters to stop a proposed Biden administration rule disqualifying asylum-seekers who cross the border without appointments or fail to apply for protection in countries they traveled through on the way to the U.S.
The advocates say between 12,000 and 14,000 people so far have submitted written comments to the Department of Homeland Security in opposition to the proposed “Circumvention of lawful pathways” rule. Public comment on what advocacy groups call an asylum “travel ban” ends on March 27.
“Our objection comes down to a couple of things,” said Imelda Maynard, legal services director for Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso. “We were only given 30 days instead of the typical 60 days to comment on a rule that essentially shuts down the ability for most folks to seek asylum. […] For most non-Mexicans, it means applying for asylum in Mexico and be denied asylum before they can apply in the U.S. That causes a lot of problems because they are incredibly vulnerable in Mexico, where they are targeted by human smugglers and the cartels.”
DHS plans to implement the rule in anticipation of a migrant surge once the Title 42 public health rule that has allowed border agents to promptly expel people crossing the border illegally expires on May 11.
“The (proposed rule) is designed to address the current and anticipated surge in migration and further discourage illegal migration by encouraging lawful, safe and orderly processes for entering the United States and partner nations,” DHS said in justifying the rule. The rule provides exemptions based on extreme health or endangerment threats and opens to expulsion those who cannot supply such proof to deportation under longstanding Title 8 authority.
The advocates say the new process relies heavily on technology, which many people in need throughout the world lack access to or are not proficient with. Those individuals and families fleeing poverty, crime or political oppression will continue to come to the U.S. any way they can.
“What this rule is going to end up doing is creating more chaos,” Maynard said. “It creates restrictions against a lot of people who don’t have access to technology. […] We have people who are desperate, and we will continue to see them pushing to come in through irregular ways. Instead of solving the problem of people crossing irregularly, I think it’s going to make it worse.”
El Paso’s Hope Border Institute is also urging people to participate in the rule’s public comment period, said Mayte Elizalde, the group’s communications director. “We have informed the public about the public comment period through our newsletter and on social media. We have also provided the link for people to add their comments along with other national organizations,” Elizalde said.
El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz said the new rule places additional burdens in neighboring countries, primarily Mexico, which are dealing with violence and regional instability that forces their own citizens to migrante.
“We can expect an increase in both the exploitation of migrants by traffickers and migrant deaths – now at record levels – which occur whenever legal pathways at the border are restricted,” Seitz wrote last week in America/Jesuit Review. “Government must regulate the border and guarantee the rights of asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants. Policies that fail to secure protections for the vulnerable are morally deficient. Death simply cannot be an acceptable part of the overhead costs of our immigration policies.”
To see the full text of the rule, visit Regulations.gov. To comment on the rule, visit the Federal Register site and follow the instructions.
Maynard said a coalition of advocacy groups has a sample template for people to individually send their unique comments to the Federal Register.