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Biden administration formally ends ‘metering’ policy at US-Mexico border

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) formally ended “metering” of foreign nationals at the U.S.-Mexico border, putting an end to an oft-criticized Trump-era border management policy. 

In a memo dated Nov. 1, U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting Commissioner Troy Miller nixed the policy, which limited the number of people processed at ports of entry, reducing the opportunities for foreign nationals to apply for asylum without first crossing the border without permission.

The memo was first reported by Priscilla Álvarez of CNN.

Technically, all foreign nationals on U.S. soil or at ports of entry can apply for asylum, setting off a process to determine whether they are eligible for protections.

The metering policy enacted by the Trump administration in 2018 limited how many people could enter at ports of entry without prior authorization — whether intending to apply for asylum or not.

Critics of the policy said metering forced many potential asylees to cross the border outside of ports of entry (POEs) in order to make their asylum claims, inflating the number of unauthorized border crossings.

“As a complement to enforcement efforts between POEs and to incentivize an alternative to such unlawful crossings, I instruct Southwest Border [Field Office] management to consider and take appropriate measures, as operationally feasible, to increase capacity to process undocumented noncitizens at Southwest Border POEs, including those who may be seeking asylum and other forms of protection,” wrote Miller. 

Still, the Biden administration has refused to budge on Title 42, a Trump-era border management policy that immigration advocates say is the main obstacle to full implementation of asylum law.

Under Title 42, U.S. authorities are empowered to immediately expel foreign nationals who are in the country without prior authorization, under the guise of sanitary protections due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Miller’s memo explicitly states that Title 42 remains in place, which means would-be asylum applicants caught outside of ports of entry or presenting legally at ports of entry could be immediately expelled without asylum processing.

But Miller’s memo reinstates rules of asylum processing that were mainstays before the Trump administration, including applicants’ rights to be screened, and strict limitations on when U.S. authorities can turn away people at ports of entry.

“Importantly, however, asylum seekers or others seeking humanitarian protection cannot be required to submit advance information in order to be processed at a Southwest Border land POE. The submission ( or lack thereof) of advance information should not influence the outcome of any inspection,” wrote Miller.

The change comes as U.S.-Mexico land ports prepare for the Nov. 8 opening for non-essential international ground travel, after two years of coronavirus pandemic-related closures.

In his memo, Miller warned the renewed traffic at ports of entry could result in longer wait times. 

“Based on past, current, and expected volumes of individuals seeking entry at Southwest Border land POEs, there may be extended wait times in processing lines,” wrote Miller.

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