“Rather than restricting access to asylum, President Biden should work with bipartisan leaders in Congress to address bottlenecks in the asylum process and relieve burdens on the broader immigration system.”
With this new asylum and transit ban, the Biden Administration very unfortunately appears to be embracing and continuing the Trump Administration’s ineffective and harmful policies, which focused on deterrence and disqualifying individuals from ever applying for asylum in the first place. The clear outcome is to prevent people from accessing their lawful right to apply for asylum.
The Biden Administration points to other recent DHS programs, such as Uniting for Ukraine and the parole process for individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, or Venezuela, as examples of how these policies can reduce the number of individuals apprehended at the border. However, those programs are critically distinct from the proposed asylum and transit ban in that they actually establish legal pathways by allowing individuals with sponsors to secure authorized travel to the U.S., where they are paroled in and granted work authorization.
By contrast, the asylum ban does not expand access to new or alternative legal processes; it only restricts existing pathways by barring people from applying for asylum. And even though the parole programs have been effective, they are not a substitute for a functioning asylum system; the programs are relatively small, restricted to specific countries, face significant legal challenges, and in general, have application requirements that most asylum-seekers do not meet.
The Biden Administration has announced additional measures to expand access to legal avenues, including significant increases in refugee admissions from Latin America and the Caribbean, creating regional processing centers for in-country processing, and establishing family reunification parole pathways for individuals waiting in family-based green card backlogs. These are good steps. But they cannot negate or undo the tremendous harm that will be done by the misguided asylum and transit ban.
FWD.us has published a framework for how the Biden Administration, future administrations, and Congress can manage forced migration and protect access to relief and safety by building new legal pathways. Research and empirical evidence have consistently shown that expanding legal avenues reduces irregular migration and significantly benefits the U.S. economy, and that deterrence-only policies like this asylum and transit ban lead to increases in irregular migration and create disastrous, even deadly, outcomes.
Rather than restricting access, the Biden Administration should work with bipartisan leaders in Congress to address bottlenecks in the asylum process and relieve burdens on the broader immigration system, including providing desperately needed funding, speeding up screening, eliminating immigration court backlogs, and improving conditions and resources for individuals navigating the asylum process.