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In a letter to Biden, lawmakers say new restrictions on asylum at the border defy U.S. law

Published: Monday, January 30, 2023 - 5:39pm
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2023 - 5:40pm
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Nearly 80 members of Congress have signed a letter criticizing the Biden administration’s plans to enact new restrictions for asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced several policy changes earlier this month. Among them was an expansion of the pandemic-era protocol Title 42 — which allows border officers to migrants back to Mexico or their home countries without giving them a chance to ask for asylum.

Mayorkas also said the administration was working on a new rule that would require migrants to apply for asylum before reaching the U.S. border, in the countries they pass through.

Details on the proposal are still in flux, but in their letter to President Joe Biden, Congressman Raul Grijalva and other lawmakers said the changes penalize migrants for trying to access asylum, despite U.S. and international laws that give them that right.

They said courts had already rejected a similar transit rule put in place under the Trump administration. 

"Specifically, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Trump-Era Third Country Transit ban violated well-settled U.S. asylum laws that prohibit turning people away unless they have 'firmly resettled' in a transit country, especially not if conditions in the transit country are not safe," the letter reads. "As the administration well knows, current conditions in Mexico – the primary transit country – cannot ensure safety for the families seeking refuge in the United States."

The lawmakers said while other initiatives, like the parole programs introduced for Venezuelans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans, were positive changes, they should not come at the expense of expanding Title 42 restrictions.