UNITED STATES: On Tuesday, a federal judge in the United States halted President Joe Biden’s recent regulation aimed at limiting asylum access at the U.S.-Mexico border, upending a crucial aspect of his strategy to deter migration after COVID-era Title 42 restrictions concluded in May.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, based in California, issued a 14-day stay on the order, which means the restrictions will remain active for the time being. Within hours, the Biden administration promptly filed an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Biden, a Democrat, entered office in 2021, promising to roll back many of the extreme actions of former President Donald Trump, a Republican. However, Biden has accepted certain Trump-like border tactics, as record numbers of migrants have been arrested for crossing illegally.
The decision came after a judicial challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organisations, who resurrected a 2018 case made against identical asylum limitations enacted by Trump that Tigar previously overturned.
Biden’s new asylum regulation, which became effective on May 11 when Title 42 came to an end, presumes that the majority of migrants are ineligible for asylum if they crossed into other countries without first seeking refuge elsewhere or if they did not follow the proper channels for entering the United States.
Following the implementation of the new legislation, the number of migrants apprehended trying to cross the border illegally has drastically decreased in recent months. It’s uncertain whether the pattern will persist if the new asylum limits are overturned.
In a 35-page decision, Judge Tigar, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama, emphasized that according to U.S. law, illegal border crossing should not serve as a disqualification for seeking asylum.
Judge Tigar said seeking refuge in a third country, like Belize, Mexico, or Colombia, is not a viable option due to various constraints, including limited processing capacity. He underscored that under U.S. law, migrants can only be restricted from accessing asylum if they pass through a nation that “actually presents a safe option.”
The Biden administration claimed that new programmes, such as one for specific immigrants with U.S. sponsors, could allow thousands of immigrants every month to join the U.S. from abroad. However, according to Tigar, these initiatives were not available to everyone and were therefore “irrelevant to the availability of asylum.”
The Biden administration has informed migrants at the border that they can use the CBP One app to request a time to approach a legal crossing. Every day, 1,450 appointments are made available to residents in central and northern Mexico.
Evidence in the case, according to Tigar, “suggests that migrants waiting in Mexico are at serious risk of violence.”
Tens of thousands of people, including families with young children, were waiting to get a slot on the app in perilous border towns in Mexico, according to media reports earlier this month. Humanitarian organisations issued warnings about the worsening hygienic conditions in migrant camps.
Katrina Eiland, the ACLU attorney who presented the case, said, “Each day the Biden administration prolongs the fight over its illegal ban, many people fleeing persecution and seeking safe harbour for their families are instead left in grave danger.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has upheld the legality of the Biden administration’s asylum regulation, emphasising in a statement that it will continue to be enforced while awaiting an appeal.
“Do not believe the lies of smugglers. Those who fail to use one of the many lawful pathways we have expanded will be presumed ineligible for asylum,” said Mayorkas.