The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is easing some restrictions on who can apply for asylum in the U.S. and has reportedly begun allowing thousands of Central American migrants to enter the U.S. under the new policy in recent days.
The Associated Press reported that the Biden administration has begun admitting migrants who wish to pursue asylum claims under a program aimed at helping the most vulnerable and at-risk people be admitted at the U.S.-Mexico border. Roughly 2,000 have already entered the U.S. under this new effort, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) official told the AP.
A DHS official told the AP that the agency was “working to streamline a system for identifying and lawfully processing particularly vulnerable individuals who warrant exceptions for humanitarian reasons under the Title 42 order.”
The ACLU responded, warning that the program was not an adequate response to the changes put in place by the Trump administration, which utilized a provision of immigration law known as Title 42 to expel migrants from countries where a dangerous communicable disease is present; amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this allowed the U.S. to essentially block most asylum claims over the course of 2020.
“While these concessions will hopefully save lives, they are not a substitute for eliminating Title 42 and restoring asylum processing fully,” Lee Gelernt, an ACLU attorney, told the AP.
The changes to the U.S. asylum system come as the Biden administration has faced pressure, particularly from progressives and advocates for immigrants' rights, to undo the historically low cap on refugees put in place by the Trump administration.
The Biden administration said earlier this month that it plans to lift its refugee cap to 62,500 this fiscal year while admitting that it will likely not admit that many refugees before the end of the year while blaming the previous administration for the roadblocks in the way to meeting that goal.