WASHINGTON — President Biden announced a crackdown on Thursday against people seeking refuge at the border with Mexico, but said his administration would also allow up to 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti to legally apply to enter the United States each month. . .
The changes come as the Biden administration is under increasing pressure to deal with surges at the southern border, especially from those four countries, where political instability and gang violence are rampant.
“Today, my administration is taking several steps to toughen enforcement for those who try to come without a legal right to stay,” Biden said in remarks at the White House, days before a two-day summit meeting in the City. from Mexico.
“My message is this,” he said. “If you are trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua or Haiti, or have agreed to start a trip to the United States, do not show up at the border.”
The president described the new approach as one aimed at expanding opportunities for migrants. But immigration advocates denounced the changes, saying they included sweeping new restrictions on the right to seek asylum for people who need to escape their countries.
Eleanor Acer, director of Human Rights First’s refugee protection program, called the new policies “a humanitarian disgrace” and said the president should not add restrictions on people seeking refuge in the United States.
“The Biden administration should take steps to restore asylum law at ports of entry,” he said, “without duplicating the cruel and self-defeating policies in the Trump playbook.”
The situation at the border has become an increasingly difficult political issue for Biden as his opponents seize immigration as an election issue. House Republicans have vowed to launch investigations into the administration’s handling of the border and begin impeachment proceedings against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security.
The president said he would travel to El Paso on Sunday, which Republicans have asked him to do since he took office. Immigrants have overwhelmed the city’s resources there. He added that he would announce new funds to help communities deal with the effects of increased migration.
“I know migration is putting real pressure on borders and border communities,” Biden said, adding that “our border issues did not arise overnight and they will not be resolved overnight. It’s a difficult problem.”
The new policies are an attempt by the administration to deliver on what the president called an “orderly, just, safe and humane” border. But they are a long way from a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, which Biden proposed to Congress the day he took office. He criticized the Republicans for refusing to even consider that proposal.
“If the most extreme Republicans continue to demagogy on this issue and reject the solutions,” the president said, “I have only one option: act on my own, do everything I can on my own to try to change the atmosphere.” .”
Authorities have said that most of the recent migrants from Central and South America trying to cross through Mexico to reach the United States are from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua.
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Under the new rules, people in those four countries will be able to apply to enter the United States using an app on their phones while still in their home countries. If they can find a sponsor (a relative, church, or nonprofit group), pass security, and pay for a flight, they will be allowed to live and work legally in the United States.
Migrants from those countries seeking to travel to the United States via Mexico would automatically be ineligible for the new program. And those who try to cross into the United States will be swiftly expelled to Mexico, which has pledged to accept up to 30,000 migrants each month from the four countries.
Biden administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity during a briefing ahead of the president’s remarks, said the program would dramatically reduce the need for people from those countries to make the dangerous journey across the border between United States and Mexico. An earlier program that applied only to Venezuelans significantly reduced the number of Venezuelan migrants at the border, officials said.
But up to 9,000 migrants try to cross the border every day, officials said, and it’s unclear how many of the people from the four countries will be able or willing to take advantage of the new program.
Administration officials said Mr. Biden would also triple the number of refugees the United States accepts each year from the Western Hemisphere, to 20,000. The refugee program is a separate way for people fleeing persecution to apply to come to the United States legally.
Mr. Biden also announced an increase in the use of stricter control measures at the border, which will allow agents to expel migrants trying to cross between ports of entry more quickly.
Immigrant rights advocates say the measures, known as expedited removal, deny people their right to due process and are used as a way to prevent them from making legitimate claims for asylum, which are guaranteed by US and European law. international.
The Biden administration is also adopting a restrictive policy developed under former President Donald J. Trump, in which migrants traveling through a third country, such as Mexico, may be prevented from seeking asylum in the United States unless they have applied. asylum in another. country first.
The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that officials would propose a rule that would make migrants ineligible for asylum if they “do not seek protection in a country through which they traveled on their way to the United States.” Immigrants who violate the rule would be barred from seeking legal entry into the United States for five years.
Immigration advocates said it would be an effort to close access to asylum for people fleeing violence, political instability and economic disasters. A letter to the president from four Democratic senators last month accused Biden of accepting the policies of Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration policy.
“By resurrecting one of Stephen Miller’s cruelest attacks on asylum seekers, he risks normalizing the anti-American belief that immigrants are a threat to our communities,” the senators wrote.
The third-country rule would require public hearings and a months-long review process, officials said.
They said the other border policies would take effect immediately. The government currently has court orders to expeditiously remove most migrants under Title 42, a public health rule implemented during the coronavirus pandemic.
But officials said they intended to continue with the new border policies if the courts allowed Title 42 enforcement to end, as the administration intends. The Supreme Court is considering a challenge by Republican-led states to the administration’s plan to stop enforcing Title 42. Biden said a court decision could come as soon as June.