Human rights: US President tightens asylum rules at border with Mexico

Human rights: US President tightens asylum rules at border with Mexico

A few months before the US presidential election, incumbent Biden wants to curb irregular migration into the country with a new border regulation. The headwinds are immediately coming from all directions.

US President Joe Biden is tightening the rules for migrants entering the US irregularly from Mexico in the middle of the election campaign. “I am doing what the Republicans in Congress are refusing to do: I am taking the necessary steps to secure our border,” the Democrat said in Washington.

The White House had previously published a presidential decree stating that those affected would no longer be able to apply for asylum under certain circumstances. Criticism came from both human rights activists and Republicans.

The president’s decree now provides that people who cross the border illegally can be deported more quickly. Those who apply for asylum will now be subject to stricter screening and will have to have, among other things, a “credible fear” of persecution or torture in their home country. Those affected will then be granted protection, but not under the same standards as other asylum seekers. On the other hand, those who present themselves regularly, for example by requesting an appointment from outside the USA using a specially set up app, will be given a fair chance – at least that is how the government presents it.

Biden accuses Trump of cynicism

Biden accused former President Donald Trump, who is seeking to defeat him in the November presidential election, of torpedoing urgently needed legislation in Congress in order to gain an advantage in the election campaign. “This is an extremely cynical political move and fails the American people who are looking to us not to weaponize the border, but to fix it,” Biden said.

He would have preferred bipartisan cooperation to better staff and finance the relevant authorities with the help of appropriate legislation. “But the Republicans left me no other choice.”

Exceptions to Biden’s decree will apply to unaccompanied children and people who are seriously ill, as well as victims of human trafficking and direct threats. All others will be returned either to Mexico or to their respective countries of origin. Previously, most asylum seekers were generally allowed to stay in the country until their court date – which is often years in the future due to overloaded authorities.

The new rule applies as soon as the average number of illegal border crossings in a week exceeds 2,500 per day. It will be lifted when this number falls below 1,500 again. US media reported, citing the authorities, that there are currently over 4,000. Since the beginning of the current fiscal year in October, there have been around 1.5 million “irregular encounters” at the southern border – that is, cases in which people were arrested – usually briefly – or deported directly. The number of cases was thus higher than at the same time in previous years – and in December 2023 it was even higher than ever in a single month. The authorities can hardly keep up with processing asylum applications. In addition, there is a lack of accommodation and other resources for the arrivals.

Doubts about feasibility and criticism from both sides

Because the newly set threshold has been exceeded, the measures should come into force immediately at midnight. However, a number of questions remain about the feasibility of the decree. For example, the USA relies on Mexico for deportations. There are doubts as to whether the money currently approved is sufficient for the additional work of the border guards – further federal aid would have to be approved by Congress. And the legal ground could be shaky: the civil rights organization ACLU has already announced that it will file a lawsuit.

Biden also received criticism from within his own party. Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal spoke of a “dangerous step in the wrong direction.” The right to apply for asylum is enshrined in US law and the country’s international treaty obligations.

The United Nations also emphasized the human right to asylum. “Any person who claims to have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin should have access to safe territory and have that claim verified before being deported or expelled,” said UN spokeswoman Florencia Soto Nino in New York.

The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, described the decree as a “political stunt” in an election year. It does not provide for new money for border protection or deportations of those who are already in the USA illegally.

Migration as a permanent political issue

Reforming immigration laws has long been a hot topic in the US, but the controversial issue is playing a particularly big role in the presidential election campaign. In his speech, Biden tried to distinguish himself from the comparatively aggressive rhetoric of his rival Trump, who describes migration to the US as an “invasion”. “I will never demonize immigrants,” Biden stressed. “I will never say that they poison the blood of a country.”

The route through Mexico is chosen by many people who are fleeing poverty, violence and political crises in their homeland and hoping for a better life in the USA. According to the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM), it is the deadliest land migration route in the world. Hundreds die every year on the strenuous and dangerous journey north, for example from lack of water and heat stroke. However, the number of fatalities is probably much higher, as many are never officially recorded in statistics.

Source: Stern

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