Rights Groups Sue To Block Biden Asylum Ban At Mexico Border

Biden border asylum ban

U.S. immigrant rights groups sued the Biden administration over a new policy that bars most migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally from claiming asylum. Led by the American Civil Liberties Union, the groups argued that the restrictions implemented last week violated U.S. asylum law and that Biden failed to follow proper regulatory procedure. They filed the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C.

As Biden seeks another term in the Nov. 5 elections, he has grappled with millions of people caught illegally crossing the southwest border during his presidency. Immigration remains a top election issue, with Biden’s Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, vowing to crack down aggressively if he wins another term in the White House.

Biden has toughened his stance in recent months, backing a bipartisan Senate bill that would increase resources at the border and expand enforcement capacity. The new ban mirrors Trump-era policies that sought to deny migrants access to asylum at the border and utilizes the same legal authority as Trump’s travel bans blocking people from majority-Muslim nations and elsewhere.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, stated that the Biden administration “lacks unilateral authority” to override laws created by Congress, citing previous legal decisions related to Trump-era policies.

Under the Biden measure, migrants caught crossing illegally can be quickly deported or turned back to Mexico. The ban includes exceptions for unaccompanied children, people facing serious medical or safety threats, and victims of trafficking.

However, key operational questions remain unclear, such as how the U.S. would quickly deport migrants from countries that are far away or have frosty relations with the U.S., and whether Mexico will accept more non-Mexican migrants apprehended by U.S. authorities.

Late last week, the number of migrants caught illegally crossing the border dropped by 20%, which one senior U.S. border official noted as “possible early success” in deterring illegal immigration.

White House spokesperson Angelo Fernandez Hernandez defended the asylum ban, stating it was necessary because “border encounters remain too high” and Republican lawmakers have blocked Biden-backed legislation.

In the lawsuit filed on Wednesday, the immigrant rights groups also targeted a part of the Biden asylum ban that requires migrants to express fear of returning to their home countries before being able to seek humanitarian protection, rather than having U.S. authorities ask about it. The groups argued that people who recently crossed the border “may be hungry, exhausted, ill, or traumatized after fleeing persecution in their home countries and danger in Mexico.”