Four Senate Democrats on Thursday were sharply critical of the Biden administration’s plan to trade off a border crackdown for 30,000 immigration permits.
Biden administration officials on Thursday said they would use Title 42 — a Trump-era policy that allows border officials to quickly expel migrants without screening them for asylum — in order to expel migrants who present at the border, while allowing others to fly into the United States.
Democratic Sens. Bob Menéndez (N.J.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) and Alex Padilla (Calif.) put out a joint statement hours after President Biden announced his plan at the White House.
“While we understand the challenges the nation is facing at the Southern border exacerbated by Republican obstruction to modernizing our immigration system, we are deeply disappointed by the Biden Administration’s decision to expand the use of Title 42,” wrote the four senators.
The Biden plan’s stated purpose is to reduce the number of migrants setting off from their home countries on foot, a goal administration officials say is realistic with the new plan based on a pilot program launched in October.
But the four senators, all of whom have vocally defended the current asylum system, said the extension of Title 42 is more likely to backfire.
“Continuing to use this failed and inhumane Trump-era policy put in place to address a public health crisis will do nothing to restore the rule of law at the border. Instead, it will increase border crossings over time and further enrich human smuggling networks,” they wrote.
The senators did celebrate the Biden administration’s intention to grant entry to 30,000 Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Haitians each month, but said that “narrow benefit” would not outweigh the plan’s harms.
And the lawmakers took aim at one of the Biden administration’s most tenuous claims in its new policy: that the requirement for migrants to apply for asylum from their current location does not equate to a so-called transit ban.
“We are also concerned about the Administration’s new transit ban regulation that will disregard our obligations under international law by banning families from seeking asylum at the border, likely separating families and stranding migrants fleeing persecution and torture in countries unable to protect them,” wrote the senators.
Administration officials flat out denied that the policy is a transit ban — sometimes referred to during the Trump administration as a “safe third country agreement” — on a call with reporters Thursday.
“I want to make clear that this is not a transit ban. You know, the previous administration’s transit ban did not provide any mechanisms for individuals to come to ports of entry to make asylum claims, it was not coupled with any expansion of lawful processes for entering the United States without making the dangerous journey to the border,” said a senior administration official.
Still, few immigrant advocates agreed with the administration’s interpretation of what makes a transit ban, and many joined the Democratic senators in their criticism of the use of Title 42.
“Continuing to rely on, and expand, Stephen Miller’s Title 42 and proposing expanding an asylum ban advances chaotic and ineffective policy while trampling on some of our proudest traditions as a welcoming nation. We should be finding ways to fix and fully resource our asylum process, not devising ways to prevent people seeking safety from accessing the asylum process under our laws,” said Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America’s Voice, a progressive immigration advocacy group.
Immigration restrictionists also panned the policy, focusing on the use of immigration parole to grant the 30,000 entry permits to migrants eligible for the program.
“This is one of the most egregious, unlawful abuses of humanitarian parole authority in the history of our nation – a middle finger to Congress, the American people, and rule of law,” said RJ Hauman, head of government relations and communications at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
“The statute authorizing parole explicitly states that parole may only be used on a ‘case-by-case’ and ‘temporary’ basis. How can the Biden administration claim with a straight face that they’ll be issuing parole on a case-by-case basis when they’re creating industrial scale programs out of thin air?”