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Women’s Refugee Commission Decries Reported Biden Administration Plans to Continue Blocking Access to Asylum

WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to news reports, the Biden administration is considering another series of attacks on access to asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico. The news comes two weeks after U.S. Judge Emmet Sullivan vacated the Title 42 policy in Huisha Huisha v. Mayorkas. The Title 42 order, a Trump-era policy that misused COVID and public health concerns to block families’ and individuals’ ability to seek safety in the U.S., will lift on December 21.

Among the actions the Biden administration is reportedly considering is the barring of access to asylum for single adults who cross the U.S. border without having first applied for legal pathways offered by the United States or in countries through which they traveled. Legally, access to asylum is not contingent on first applying for other protections, and practically, many individuals seeking asylum cannot wait in their own country or other countries for alternative limited protection avenues, if any are available to them.

In addition, the Biden administration is considering what is being called a “surge” in criminal prosecutions for single individuals who “have done nothing other than cross the border illegally.”

In response to this news, Kimiko Hirota, policy advisor of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:

“Crossing the border to seek safety should not be a death sentence. Reports that the Biden administration is looking for new ways to block access to asylum are deeply alarming and disheartening. We know from years of sending thousands of people back to Mexico or to the very countries they fled that policies like Title 42 result in violent assaults and sometimes even deaths.

“The Biden administration should not replace Title 42 with other ineffective deterrence policies that deny people the right to seek refuge in the US and also leave them stranded in dangerous conditions in Mexico. Nor should it punish and criminalize families and individuals for seeking safety. New legal pathways, while welcomed, must complement—but never replace—access to asylum at the U.S. southern border.

“With the end of Title 42, we urge the Biden administration to take concrete steps to restore access to asylum at the U.S. southern border, including at ports of entry, and rebuild the U.S. asylum system. We urge the Biden administration to invest in a humane asylum system that treats people fairly. Enforcing our immigration laws means ensuring the right to seek asylum.”