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Biden administration views migrant restrictions similar to Trump policies

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering substantial new limits on the number of migrants who could seek asylum in the United States, people familiar with the proposal say, which would broaden restrictions similar to those first put in place. along the border by the former president. Donald J. Trump.

The plan is one of many being debated by top aides to President Biden as the country faces a continued rise in border arrivals. It would prohibit migrants fleeing persecution from seeking refuge in the United States unless they have first been denied safe haven by another country, such as Mexico.

People familiar with the talks said the new policy, if passed, could come into effect as early as this month, just as the government stops using a public health rule that was put in place at the start of the coronavirus pandemic by the Trump administration and has become a key policy to manage the spike in crossings during Mr. Biden’s tenure. A federal judge ordered the administration to stop using the health rule on Dec. 21.

But the idea of ​​broadly barring migrants from seeking asylum strikes directly at the heart of decades of American and international law that have shaped the United States’ role as a place of safety for displaced and fearful people across the world. world.

And it builds on an approach taken by Mr. Trump and Stephen Miller, the architect of the former president’s immigration program. Anxious to keep migrants out of the United States, the Trump administration imposed what it called a transit ban and refused to consider asylum applications from migrants who had not sought refuge in other places. other countries as they made their way to the US border.

The similarities have infuriated human rights campaigners, who recall Mr Biden’s full-throated condemnation of his predecessor’s immigration policies during the 2020 campaign.

“For the Biden administration to resurrect this horrible policy would play into Stephen Miller’s hands,” said Eleanor Acer, director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, which released a report in 2020 on the repercussions of the refugee ban. transit. “It’s almost as if Stephen Miller is still in the White House trying to block asylum for people seeking protection from persecution.”

People familiar with the internal debate disputed that the Biden administration would adopt a policy identical to Mr. Trump’s programs. They also said the approach was not final and had not been presented to Mr. Biden or Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, for a decision.

A person briefed on the talks said a new policy, if passed, would be rolled out alongside expanded opportunities for migrants to come to the United States legally and decide not to make the often dangerous journey through Mexico. towards the US border.

The person, who requested anonymity because closed-door discussions are continuing, said the goal of Mr Trump’s policy was to keep people out while the Biden administration tries to find a way to legally let in those who had valid claims without uncontrollable. rush to the border.

Administration officials have repeatedly said they are pleased with a recent policy that has begun turning Venezuelan migrants back more quickly if they try to cross illegally into the United States. But the policy also established a legal humanitarian pathway for 24,000 eligible Venezuelans. Officials said the combination of the two policies resulted in a significant drop in the number of Venezuelans entering the country illegally.

“We are preparing for it,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters last week. “We have been working to speed up processing times for asylum applications so that those who have no legal basis to stay can be deported quickly. And we have counter-smuggling operations in place with Mexico and Guatemala, as I mentioned, as we prepare to move into the next phase of our border management work.

White House officials declined to comment specifically on the possibility of further broad asylum restrictions. But several people familiar with the proposal said it was one of several ideas under consideration. Others include increasing prosecutions for people who cross illegally and expanding a practice that speeds up deportations for people who say they don’t fear returning to their country.

Democrats have widely criticized the Trump administration’s transit ban, and Mr Biden issued an executive order early in his presidency asking officials to review the policy.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Miller have repeatedly raged against the current administration’s border management. Mr Miller tweeted this week that Mr Biden’s policies amounted to “a giant, ongoing, backdoor amnesty for new illegals”. Announcing his 2024 presidential bid, Mr. Trump said “our southern border has been obliterated and our country is overrun by millions upon millions of strangers.”

The Biden administration has not granted amnesty to migrants, and border officials are checking the backgrounds of all those apprehended.

But any hint of restoring some of the Trump-era transit ban policy would be an extraordinary step for a president who has campaigned to restore the asylum process his predecessor all but dismantled.

Republicans have consistently criticized the administration, pointing to its rollback of some of Trump’s policies as part of the problem. And those attacks will increase in January when the GOP regains control of the House, especially if there is a rush on illegal crossings after the lifting of the public health rule – known as Title 42. Last week , the main Republican in the House, Representative Kevin McCarthy, renewed threats that Mr Mayorkas would be impeached if he did not resign, because of his handling of the situation at the border.

The public health rule has become a useful tool for quickly deporting migrants, many of whom are fleeing violence, unstable governments and poverty exacerbated by the pandemic, with the hope of seeking refuge in the United States.

Officials have long known that the public health order would eventually be lifted and most likely exacerbate illegal crossings and fuel Republican attacks. The Department of Homeland Security had prepared a six-pillar plan to respond to a sharp increase in illegal crossings. And yet the Biden administration always seems to be scrambling to come up with new policies to help manage them.

The public health authority has become a key instrument used to rapidly expel thousands of migrants daily. And the other processes the government typically uses to tackle illegal crossings take much longer – often more than an hour per person compared to the roughly 15 minutes it takes to use the public health authority.

The hope of some Biden administration officials is that the new asylum restrictions will lead to fewer illegal crossings.

The Biden and Trump administrations see restrictions on asylum access as a way to manage the high levels of crossings at the southwest border, which has become the main route for people to have a chance to be in the United States as the legal channels have narrowed over the years. Congress has been unable to agree on proposals to update the long-outdated immigration system.

Trump’s policy faced legal challenges from the start. And a version of the Biden administration would most likely end up in court as well.

Immigration advocates have been disappointed with the White House’s lack of progress in restoring the asylum system, as the president had promised.

But since the administration began, immigration has become one of Mr. Biden’s least favorite topics. Many immigration advocates who joined the administration in 2021 hoping it would undo Mr. Trump’s restrictive policies left in frustration, and the most enforcement-minded advisers are those who develop new policies.

“If the reported story is true, the Biden administration would be moving further away from our country’s commitment to providing refuge for asylum seekers,” Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. . “I will strongly oppose this misguided attempt to rewrite our asylum laws without congressional approval, just as I have strongly opposed the same efforts under President Trump.”

nytimes Gt

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