In what members of the immigrant rights community consider a legal victory, a judge has blocked the Biden Administration’s new rules for asylum seekers attempting to enter the country through the US-Mexico border.
In his opinion, federal judge Jon Tigar, from Oakland, California, concluded that the rules introduced by the federal government, a little more than two months ago, impose conditions that do not reflect Law 96-212 that was approved in 1980 and regulated the asylum process in the United States.
But aware of the practical consequences that his decision may have in the border region, where some anticipate a massive overflow, the judge suspended his decision for a period of 14 days. A reasonable period of time for the Biden Administration to appeal the ruling or prepare logistically for what may come.
The New Rules
The new asylum rules, which went into effect after Title 42 expired on May 11th, oblige migrants to request asylum in the country they are passing through before arriving in the United States. And in the case of entering illegally, they are exposed to being summarily deported, to five years of exclusion, and to severe penalties if they repeat their attempt.
The only venue left open is to request an interview with the immigration authorities using the CBP One app, from Mexico. An app that, as many critics have suggested, does not work properly due to technical limitations at the border.
The Judicial Opinion
In his ruling, Judge Tigar says that “non-citizens who enter between ports of entry, using a form of entry expressly established by Congress, cannot have their access to asylum affected.”
Although in a previous hearing the judge had anticipated the resolution, which is similar to one he issued during the Trump Administration, government lawyers tried to convince him that the context has changed, since the federal government is providing migrants with various alternatives.
For starters, minors who are not accompanied by family members, those with critical medical conditions, and people who face imminent danger if deported are excluded from this rule.
The government lawyers also recalled that a new program allows 30,000 people from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti to request asylum from their countries of origin, if they get a US sponsor. A requirement that, as pro-immigrant organizations suggest, is not easy to meet.
As proof of the effectiveness of the measures implemented by the Biden Administration, the lawyers reminded the magistrate that the number of migrants who were intercepted at the border, both at the end of May and in June, dropped considerably.
In June, according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, approximately 100,000 migrants crossed the border illegally. Which represents a drop of no less than 42% compared to May. The lowest level since Joe Biden became president.
And the CBP One system appears to be paying off, too. About 38,000 migrants were processed and admitted at the border after obtaining an appointment on the app, according to government attorneys.
Record Asylum Applications
Asylum seekers have to prove that being returned to their country of origin may pose a serious danger to their personal security, because they suffered persecution due to their political ideas, gender identity, race, ethnicity, nationality, or other distinguishing factor.
According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University, in recent years the number of migrants who have requested asylum has reached a record level of more than 1.5 million.
With so many migrants in the system, it is not unusual for some to wait sometimes years before their case is heard by an immigration judge.
An Endless Wait
And while some Republicans, such as misinformed former Vice President Mike Pence, have argued that more than 90% of immigrants do not show up for their court hearings after they are released, in reality Justice Department statistics suggest that, at least in the In the case of those seeking asylum, only 6% were issued a deportation order in absentia, in 2017. In other words, they did not appear when their case went before a magistrate.
But for the vast majority who are ready for the court hearing, the waiting and uncertainty could seemed to be endless. With only 400 immigration judges and legal limits on how many asylum claims can be accepted per year, little can be done. According to TRAC, the average wait for applicants is 4.3 years.
In some cases, much more. As NBC News reported, a client of Oasis Legal Services filed for asylum in 2014. Nine years later, she is still waiting for an interview.
Meanwhile, migrants have the chance to savor the American Dream which, unfortunately, for many, translates into semi-slave, unhealthy, and poorly paid jobs. But, despite everything, they are a better option than the persecution, abuse or famines that they experienced, and others are experiencing, in their countries of origin.
If Judge Tigar’s resolution prevails, the situation could seriously complicate the Biden Administration, which, in a pre-electoral year, does not want the immigration issue to become a priority on the political agenda under any circumstances.
But the options are limited. The only politically significant solution can come from the Congress with the enactment of a new immigration law. But considering that the last substantial piece of legislation passed in 1986, as some say, in this highly polarized America, hell is more likely to freeze over before Republican and Democratic lawmakers reach an agreement on immigration.
This article was supported in whole or in part by funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library and the Latino Media Collaborative.