WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration said Tuesday it would generally deny asylum to migrants who show up at the southern U.S. border without first seeking protection in the country they passed through, mirroring a Trump administration experiment that never took effect. because it was blocked in the court.
The measure, which stops short of a total ban, places severe restrictions on asylum for any nationality except Mexicans who do not have to travel through a third country to reach the US.
The measure will not take effect immediately and will almost certainly face legal challenges. President Donald Trump pursued a similar ban in 2019, but a federal appeals court blocked it from taking effect. It will also be subject to possible revisions after a 30-day period for public comment.
Administration officials expect the rule to take effect when the pandemic-era rule that denies asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19 expires. That rule, known as Title 42 authorization, is scheduled to expire on May 11 but has been delayed twice by legal challenges from Republican-led states.
The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice argued that the growing number of migrants left them with little choice. They expect illegal crossings to rise from 11,000 to 13,000 a day if no action is taken after Title 42 expires, up from an already extremely high average of 6,500 a day for the government’s fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
Title 42 was scheduled to expire at the end of December before the Supreme Court ordered it to stay in place. Administration officials said daily crossings reached 7,700 a day in early November and 8,600 in mid-December as anticipation spread among migrants and smugglers that the rule would end.
The proposed rule creates a “rebuttable presumption of inadmissibility” for anyone who passes through another country to reach the U.S. border with Mexico without seeking protection there, according to a Federal Register notice. Exceptions will be made for people who have an “acute medical emergency,” an “imminent and extreme threat” of violent crime such as murder, rape or kidnapping, a victim of human trafficking, or “other extremely compelling circumstances.”
U.S. officials have argued that the measure differs from Trump’s, largely because there is room for exceptions and because the Biden administration has made other legal avenues available, notably parole for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Ukrainians.
“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, while proposing new consequences for those who fail to use the processes made available to them by the United States and its regional partners,” Homeland Security said. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
For asylum seekers traveling to the US border through North America and Mexico, Costa Rica and Mexico have the most robust asylum systems. Both countries, however, have been overwhelmed by a growing number of asylum applications in recent years.
With a population of just 5 million, Costa Rica is behind only the United States, Germany and Mexico in the number of asylum applications in 2021. In December, President Rodrigo Chavez ordered changes to the asylum system, claiming it was being abused. by economic migrants.
In recent years, most asylum seekers from Costa Rica have been Nicaraguans fleeing repression in that country. In 2012, Costa Rica received barely 900 applications for asylum. Last year, the total number was about 80,000.
That has created huge backlogs and lengthened the process, prompting more Nicaraguans to look north to the United States last year.
Mexico has been facing a surge in asylum applications for years and last year received 118,478 applications, mostly from Honduras, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela. Many migrants who have no other options have used the asylum system as a way to get through Mexico legally during the process and then try to cross the US border.
Other countries on the northern migrant route have very limited capacity to receive asylum seekers. Some, like Mexico, suffer from high levels of violence, others have struggling economies and few resources to offer.
Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed.
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