Court Ruling Halts Biden Administration’s Border Policy Restricting Asylum for Undocumented Immigrants

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On Tuesday, a federal judge, Jon S. Tigar, halted a rule imposed by the Biden administration that restricted immigrants, excluding Mexican nationals, from seeking asylum in the United States. This ruling struck down the policy, which resembled the Trump-era “transit ban,” mandating migrants arriving through the southern border to apply for protection in other countries they passed through before seeking asylum online.

In his 35-page decision, Jon S. Tigar, a federal judge appointed by former President Obama and based in California, stated that the Biden administration’s rule is in violation of federal law, which permits anyone to claim asylum while present in the United States. Tigar emphasized that the rule is flawed as it assumes noncitizens entering between ports of entry, using methods of entry that Congress explicitly intended not to affect asylum access, as ineligible for asylum.

Additionally, Tigar pointed out that the Biden administration’s rule contradicts federal law by presuming noncitizens as ineligible for asylum if they fail to apply for protection in a transit country, despite Congress’s clear intent that such a factor should only limit access to asylum when the transit country actually offers a safe option.

The Biden administration has faced a significant influx of illegal immigrants, leading to changes in its approach to handling the situation at the southern border. According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there were over 1.7 million migrant encounters in fiscal 2021, with another 2.3 million crossings reported at the U.S.-Mexico border the previous year.

The termination of Title 42, a Trump-era public health order that facilitated the immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants due to the pandemic, resulted in border agents encountering nearly 145,000 migrants in June. This number marked a notable decrease from the almost 208,000 encounters reported in June 2022.

Shortly before Biden ended the public health order, he faced backlash from immigrant activists and legal challenges initiated by civil rights groups due to the implementation of a revised policy that restricted access for third-country immigrants seeking asylum, reminiscent of Trump’s approach.

Among the organizations that filed lawsuits against the Biden administration were the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Northern California, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and the National Immigrant Justice Center. These groups contested the newer policy, raising concerns about its potential impact on the rights and opportunities for asylum seekers from third countries.

Katrina Eiland, an attorney representing the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the case, expressed her approval of the judge’s decision. She viewed the ruling as a victory, but also highlighted the urgency of resolving the matter promptly. Eiland argued that as long as the Biden administration continues to prolong the legal battle over the policy, many individuals escaping persecution and seeking safety for their families remain at risk. She emphasized that America should be a symbol of freedom and hope, and the administration has the responsibility to uphold this promise by refraining from enforcing harsh and ineffective policies.

In response to the ruling, Judge Tigar decided to delay its immediate implementation, allowing the Biden administration sufficient time to file an expected appeal. This means that the policy change will not take effect right away, pending further legal proceedings.