Proposed asylum rule draws thousands of comments as period closes

Published: Monday, March 27, 2023 - 6:14pm

A public comment period for a new asylum rule proposed by the Department of Homeland Security has come to an end. The new rule would bar migrants from asking for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border if they didn’t do so in another country first. 

The proposed rule has garnered thousands of comments since being published on the Federal Register in February. That includes one from the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee wing, which says the rule goes against international law and should be rescinded altogether. 

Alex Miller, director of the Immigration Justice Campaign with the American Immigration Council at the American Immigration Council, said the rule also violates U.S. asylum law. 

"You should have access to asylum whether or not you enter at a designated port of arrival. And beyond that, we have significant concerns about whether individuals have meaningful access to asylum en route to the United States and whether they're safe in those transit countries," she said. "And we know from the, the prior transit ban under the Trump administration, and we know from the remain in Mexico policy, and we know from Title 42 that migrants are not safe in particular at, in Mexico and at the border."

The Biden administration argues the new rule would cut down on smuggling by discouraging asylum seekers from traveling to the border and opening pathways to apply from further away. But Miller said, just like past restrictions this new rule would make things more dangerous for families fleeing harm.

Miller said rights advocates also worry how the new rule will actually be applied at the border.

"It's unclear, right? The rule says that you can be presumptively barred from asylum if you don't seek asylum through a prescribed method, or seek asylum in a transit country and be denied first," she said. "But unclear what happens if you show up at a port of entry and ask to be processed."

Miller says the rule is expected to go into effect in May, when the pandemic-era protocol Title 42 is slated to come to an end. 

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