Washington, DC – As the Biden administration explores reinstituting family detention and with more reminders about the challenges for families in accessing existing legal pathways, including asylum, observers are highlighting what’s at stake for President Biden’s and America’s moral and economic leadership regarding its policy and political vision on immigration.
“Asylum Denier-in-Chief” – appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) blasted the Biden administration for considering reinstituting family detention, noting:
“If the administration does go down this path, I am afraid that the president will become the asylum denier-in-chief.” Menendez assessed that family detention “proved to be a failure under both the Obama and Trump administrations as a way to deter individuals from coming” and offered a reminder of the stakes and motivations driving migration: “If my situation is I am in a country where staying means where I will most certainly die, see my daughter raped or my son into a gang, I’m going to flee. Well, we need to understand that and deal with it … People fleeing those dictatorships, when the administration opened up a legal pathway for those fleeing, it dramatically saw the reduction [at the border]. It’s just an example of what you can do in a way that both is good for the border and preserves our nation as a nation that preserves asylum.”
Meanwhile, Washington Post and New York Times stories this weekend underscored the challenges and hurdles facing asylum seekers and desperate migrants in overcoming bureaucratic and technological obstacles – in the process, demonstrating why expanded and accessible legal pathways are essential, instead of asylum bans and deterrence-only policies.
In the Washington Post, Arelis Hernández writes, “Desperate Migrants Seeking Asylum Face a New Hurdle: Technology”
“As the Biden administration struggles to bring order to the border, some of the most vulnerable migrants are finding themselves stuck in squalid camps in Mexico … All are trying to use a new CBP app that is supposed to make entering the country more efficient. Each day, migrants awake before sunrise to search for a WiFi signal and try to get one of the 700 to 800 appointments available at eight entry points. Advocates estimate there are more than 100,000 people seeking entry. The appointments fill up within five minutes … Desperation mounts as they look toward a country within eyeshot but perpetually out of reach.”
In The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan and Steve Fisher write, “At the End of a Hard Journey, Migrants Face Another: Navigating Bureaucracy,” noting:
“In the past two years in particular, border policies have not been enforced consistently, leading to more confusion about who is allowed to seek refuge in the country. The U.S. immigration system has long been a maze of benefits and backlogs, and it worsens each year Congress neglects to update decades-old laws.
For years, foreigners have faced dwindling legal options to enter the United States. So the creation of a legal pathway with a two-year parole in the U.S. for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela — who have been fleeing authoritarian and unstable governments in increasing numbers — was a welcome development for human rights advocates. But they argue that such options should be available to all migrants in need.
‘It is a short-term solution, and it smacks of politics more than a solution that gets to the root of the problem,’ said Ana Lorena Delgadillo, the director of the migrant-advocacy nonprofit Foundation for Justice, which is based on Mexico. She and others argue that a lack of legal pathways to the United States will continue to drive migrants to risk their lives and enter illegally.”
Meanwhile, analysts are citing Biden’s political motivations and fears of Republican attacks as driving the host of recently announced or floated restrictive policies from the Biden administration. As America’s Voice noted on Friday, even though the Biden re-election effort will try to “downplay and defuse” issues such as immigration in favor of economic priorities of “inflation, jobs, and health care,” as Ron Brownstein assessed, it’s impossible to get those economic policies and outcomes right while ignoring the critical role of immigrants in addressing the economic needs of the U.S..
According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“From a policy perspective, restricting asylum access and reinstituting family detention will increase chaos and confusion and won’t prevent desperate people from seeking safety, as the news of the tragic shipwreck off the coast of San Diego reminds.
Deterrence-only policies are also a missed opportunity to lean into a bigger vision that recognizes that creating a modern immigration system that works for America and our economy is a strength to be embraced, not an issue to ‘downplay or defuse.’ We need to be expanding legal pathways and ensure they are accessible and functional as part of a consistent vision for overhauling our immigration system – not adopting Republican message frames and band-aid restrictive policies.”