The new proposal by the Biden Administration that would bar thousands of people from asylum in the U.S. will return asylum-seekers to danger and further undermine regional refugee protection efforts. The proposed rule bars asylum-seekers who have not applied for asylum while passing through a third country or who did not manage to make an appointment to seek asylum at a southern border port of entry, with few exceptions. This rule, which would be in effect for two years, is counterproductive to building a safe, orderly, and humane asylum system. 

The proposed measures violate U.S. law and international obligations, which guarantee the legal right to seek asylum at or after crossing the border and could undermine respect for refugee protections globally. Additionally, the requirements in the proposed rule are unfeasible and impractical for many people in need of protection, as some asylum-seekers cannot find safety in the countries they are transiting through where violence is at its peak. Many have also been unable to schedule appointments through the CBP One smartphone application given the limited appointment availability that has particularly impacted families, as well as technological and accessibility issues with the application, which is currently available in only a few languages. Facilitating access to seek safety in places suitable to people’s needs must remain a priority. Asylum-seekers who cannot access the limited, existing safe pathways to protection should not be penalized for doing so. 

Executive and legislative solutions should prioritize and invest in access to durable and equitable protection for all asylum-seekers. New border externalization policies only further endanger asylum-seekers by pushing them toward dangerous, irregular routes and into the hands of criminals who abuse, kidnap, and exploit them, all while also overwhelming host countries’ still-developing protection systems.The IRC calls for the Biden administration to rescind this proposed rule and instead enact fair and humane solutions that restore a functioning asylum system. The U.S. should not create or extend border policies that would undermine refugee protections here, and undercut efforts for Mexico and other Latin American countries to be safer, more viable destinations for some asylum-seekers.

Kennji Kizuka, Asylum Policy Director at the IRC, said:

“During the State of the Union, President Biden addressed the need to ‘restore the soul of the nation’ on issues that should not be partisan. The U.S. should take this opportunity to recommit to long-held values of providing access to refuge for those fleeing violence and persecution while bolstering protection systems in the region to create more options for those seeking safety in the future. A rule that denies people arriving at our borders asylum protection and that will leave families separated is antithetical to America’s non-partisan spirit of welcome for refugees in need.

“The U.S. should also establish safe, legal pathways for other people seeking to migrate to the U.S., which would help reduce the diversion of asylum system staff and resources away from refugee protection work. The IRC and partners are ready to continue welcoming and receiving asylum-seekers, both at the border and throughout the nation, with humanitarian support, legal assistance, and case management.”