(CN) — The Biden administration announced a proposal Tuesday that would bar foreigners who attempt to illegally cross into the country along the U.S.-Mexico border from later seeking asylum.
The proposal comes "in anticipation of a potential surge of migration at the southwest border of the United States," according to the announcement, that officials expect will come with the end of a Covid-era immigration policy known as Title 42 in May. Introduced in March 2020 to slow the spread of Covid, Title 42 gives border patrol agents the power to send would-be migrants back to Mexico. A federal judge has ordered immigration officials to stop using Title 42 by Dec. 21.
The new rule, which is expected to go into effect 30 days from now following a public comment period, is an attempt to replace Title 42 with something else — an incentive, perhaps, for those seeking asylum to apply for it legally before immigrating rather than showing up at the border and hoping for the best. In the meantime, those asylum seekers would be forced to wait in another country — typically Mexico.
“We are a nation of immigrants, and we are a nation of laws. We are strengthening the availability of legal, orderly pathways for migrants to come to the United States, at the same time proposing new consequences on those who fail to use processes made available to them by the United States and its regional partners,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a written statement. “As we have seen time and time again, individuals who are provided a safe, orderly, and lawful path to the United States are less likely to risk their lives traversing thousands of miles in the hands of ruthless smugglers, only to arrive at our southern border and face the legal consequences of unlawful entry.”
Immigration has proved a tricky issue for President Joe Biden to navigate. Upon taking office, he quickly reversed many of his predecessor's policies — halting construction of the border wall, ending the ban on travel from 14 countries, and restoring protections to immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Immigration, particularly from asylum seekers, subsequently soared. In response, the administration expanded its use of Title 42 and illegal immigration began to drop.
Immigrant rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union decried the new proposal.
"This asylum ban is, at its core, Trump’s asylum ban under a different name," said Anu Joshi of the ACLU in a written statement. "It will leave the most vulnerable people in much the same position as Trump’s policy did — at risk and unfairly denied the protection of asylum for reasons that have nothing to do with their need for refuge. We can’t overstate the human suffering that will result.”
There are some exceptions to the new proposal. Migrants can still seek asylum if they or a family member is facing a medical emergency, imminent threat to their life or safety, or were a "victim of a severe form of trafficking."
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