On Tuesday, a federal judge in California made a significant ruling by preventing the implementation of a new Biden administration policy that aimed to restrict asylum access. The decision, which will be enforced after a two-week period, represents a major setback for the Biden administration’s efforts to impose stricter conditions on asylum-seekers. Among the provisions was the requirement for asylum-seekers to seek protection in any country they passed through before reaching the U.S. border.
The rule, which was officially established in May, additionally restricts the opportunity to seek asylum outside of designated ports of entry.
U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar, in halting the implementation of the rule, consistently cited U.S. asylum law. He expressed in his written decision that the newly introduced policy goes against the evident purpose set by Congress to create a secure refuge for individuals escaping persecution and hazardous situations.
“Requiring noncitizens to present at ports of entry effectively constitutes a categorical ban on migrants who use a method of entry explicitly authorized by Congress. Conditioning asylum eligibility on presenting at a port of entry or having been denied protection in transit conflicts with the unambiguous intent of Congress,” Tigar said.
The lawsuit originated from a challenge spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), but the policy also triggered legal action from states led by the GOP.
“The ruling is a victory, but each day the Biden administration prolongs the fight over its illegal ban, many people fleeing persecution and seeking safe harbor for their families are instead left in grave danger,” in a statement, Katrina Eiland, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, expressed her thoughts.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for implementing the rule, did not provide an immediate response to the request for comment. However, it is anticipated that the Department of Justice will appeal the ruling.
The rule received strong criticism from opponents who contended that the DHS was adopting policies remarkably similar to those proposed during the tenure of former President Trump. While the Biden rule included certain provisions allowing migrants to contest determinations of asylum ineligibility, it essentially barred asylum for those who did not first seek protection along their journey, resembling the transit ban implemented during the Trump era.
Immigration advocates have asserted that only a limited number of countries have viable asylum systems to provide adequate protections to asylum-seekers.
However, it seems that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had some hesitations or concerns regarding the rule.
The court’s decision comes after the Biden administration’s choice to end Title 42, which was another policy initiated during the Trump era. Title 42 relied on the pandemic as a justification for expelling migrants without allowing them to seek asylum, which was also in violation of asylum law.
Since the rescission of Title 42, there has been a decrease in border crossings. The administration attributes this decline to both the newly imposed restrictions on asylum and the implementation of new parole programs for Cubans, Haitians, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans, granting them temporary admission to the country.