Some Democratic lawmakers and immigrant activist groups are reacting with concern to President Biden’s announcement Thursday of new border security measures — particularly the expansion of Title 42 expulsions to include three additional nationalities – calling the moves “deeply” disappointing.
Biden, in a speech from the White House on Thursday, announced an expansion of a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelan nationals to include Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans. That program will allow 30,000 individuals a month from all four counties to be paroled into the U.S. for a two-year period as long as they have a financial sponsor and pass other conditions. Those who attempt to enter illegally are made ineligible for the program.
However, it is also accompanied by an agreement with Mexico that they will take 30,000 nationals from each country via expulsions under the Title 42 public health order. Should that order end, the expulsions will take place under the usual Title 8 removals.
Additionally, the administration announced a proposed rule that would make illegal immigrants ineligible for asylum if they “circumvent available, established pathways to lawful migration” and do not claim asylum in a country through which they traveled to get to the U.S.
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Biden, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, said the moves were an important step towards dealing with the ongoing crisis at the southern border — which saw more than 2.3 million migrant encounters in FY 2022, and numbers in FY 2023 that have so far outpaced those of the prior fiscal year.
“These actions alone that I’m going to announce today aren’t going to fix our entire immigration system but they can help us a good deal in managing what is a difficult challenge,” Biden said.
While the moves took heat from critics on the right for being too little too late amid a border crisis they put down to the administration’s own policies, it also received criticism from those typically more sympathetic to the administration’s stance on migration.
While those on the left of the immigration debate welcomed the expanded legal pathways, multiple senators and immigration groups expressed anger and disappointment at the move to lean more heavily into the Trump-era Title 42 order.
“While we understand the challenges the nation is facing at the Southern border exacerbated by Republican obstruction to modernizing our immigration system, we are deeply disappointed by the Biden administration’s decision to expand the use of Title 42,” Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., said in a joint statement.
“Continuing to use this failed and inhumane Trump-era policy put in place to address a public health crisis will do nothing to restore the rule of law at the border. Instead, it will increase border crossings over time and further enrich human smuggling networks. We are pleased to see an increase in the access to parole for Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Haitians, but this narrow benefit will exclude thousands of migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability or economic means to qualify for the new parole process,” they said.
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The coalition of senators also expressed concern about the transit ban regulations that they said would separate families and strand “migrants fleeing persecution and torture in countries unable to protect them.”
Meanwhile, FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group established by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urged the administration to back off from the new announcement.
“Multiple things can be true at the same time: the Biden administration’s creation of new legal pathways that will protect vulnerable individuals is a critical and positive step; expanding Title 42 is entirely wrong; and we strongly oppose the proposed policy that would disqualify many from even seeking asylum on U.S. soil – a policy that seemingly resembles the illegal transit ban created by the Trump administration – and we strongly urge the administration not to pursue this policy,” FWD.us President Todd Schulte said.
DHS Secretary Mayorkas had rejected the idea that that policy was similar to those implemented during the Trump administration, anticipating such criticism. He pointed to the ability for migrants to use a phone application at ports of entry to apply for asylum, s well as the additional parole program.
“So those two avenues in addition to everything else we have done thus far make this quite distinct from anything under the prior administration,” he said.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union — which recently sued the Biden administration over Title 42 — described the policy as not just Trumpian, but also illegal.
“And previously, President Biden explicitly condemned Trump’s asylum ban against people who travel through other countries and made a campaign promise to end it and restore our asylum laws,” the statement by Jonathan Blazer, the union’s director of border strategies, said. “But today the White House announced that he plans to bring a version of that ban back. His commitments to people seeking safety will ring utterly hollow if he moves forward in substituting one illegal anti-asylum Trump policy for another.”
However, the proposal did gain some support from some Democrats. Notably, New York City Mayor Eric Adams — who has criticized the Biden administration for not doing enough with the flood of migrant that the Big Apple has been encountering — called it an “important, positive step.”
We appreciate this administration’s partnership and response to our request for action, and we are hopeful this policy will help better control the flow of asylum seekers arriving at the southern border,” he said. “At the same time, we still need a long-term and proactive strategy to manage the crisis we are seeing.”