Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended the Biden administration’s border policies on Sunday after he was asked about an accusation that current asylum rules are strict.
Jonathan Karl, co-host of ABC’s This Week, asked Mayorkas about his response to the lawsuit filed on Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in which it alleged that the Biden administration’s “new asylum ban” is “largely” mimicking policies under former President Donald Trump.
“The Biden administration’s new ban places vulnerable asylum seekers in grave danger and violates U.S. asylum laws. We’ve been down this road before with Trump,” said Katrina Eiland, managing attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “The asylum bans were cruel and illegal then, and nothing has changed now.”
ACLU’s lawsuit comes after the official expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allowed the denial of asylum seekers due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, which officially ended on May 11. The end of the policy has been accompanied by a surge in the number of migrants arriving at the border and hoping to claim asylum in the United States. Mexican government data quoted by The New York Times shows that tens of thousands of migrants have crossed Mexican territory to reach the U.S. border since early April.
According to CNN, Title 42 was used to send back about 2.5 million migrants between March 2020 and November 2022.
On Sunday, Mayorkas said the ACLU’s claim of imposing a similar Trump policy is “absolutely incorrect,” and that he disagrees with “every aspect” of that statement.
“This is not an asylum ban. We have a humanitarian obligation, as well as a matter of security, to cut the ruthless smugglers out. That is a responsibility of [the] government and we are doing that, and Jon, it is not a ban at all,” Mayorkas said.
Title 42 is now being replaced by the pre-existing section of U.S. code known as Title 8. This has more severe consequences for migrants who do not qualify for entry into the country as they will not only be deported, but will also be banned from re-entering the country for at least five years.
In addition, the ACLU and other immigration rights advocates are now criticizing a newly introduced border policy that considers migrants ineligible to seek asylum in the U.S. if they didn’t first seek refuge in a country they transited through, like Mexico, before reaching the U.S. border.
However, an exception is made for migrants who have secured an appointment through the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) One App, according to officials. However, immigration rights advocates say that appointments are “scarce” and the mobile application used to book appointments is “flawed.”
ACLU also compared Biden’s border policies to the policies imposed under Trump as it also required migrants to apply for asylum in countries they passed through first before reaching the U.S. Karl on Sunday also confronted Mayorkas with this similarity, to which the Homeland Security secretary said that it is not an asylum ban.
“First of all, President Biden has led the greatest expansion of lawful pathways ever. What our rule provides is that an individual must access those lawful pathways that we have made available to them. If they have not, then they must have sought relief in one of the countries through which they have traveled and been denied. And if they haven’t done either, it’s not a ban on asylum, but they have a higher threshold of proof that they have to meet. That is a presumption of ineligibility that can be overcome. It is not a ban. And so I disagree with that in every regard,” Mayorkas said.
Newsweek reached out by email to the ACLU for comment.