Migrant advocacy groups applaud federal judge’s ruling on Biden’s asylum policy

Federal judge’s decision applauded by migrant advocacy groups who say the strict additional layers make it near impossible for many seeking refuge

SAN ANTONIO – On Tuesday, a federal judge struck down the Biden Administration’s policy for asylum seekers -- a policy that was set in place immediately after the end of Title 42.

The new policy aimed to address immigration challenges and provide a more compassionate approach to asylum seekers, but it seems the judge had a different take on the matter.

“The Biden Administration was concerned about a possible crisis at the border since the Title 42 restrictions were going to be lifted. So, it actually just made requesting and applying for asylum more difficult in the United States,” said Rafael Borras, an immigration lawyer.

Borras said the policy requires asylum seekers to request protection in a third country or download an application on a smartphone and request an appointment in order to seek asylum.

“If you did not meet those requirements, even if you were fleeing the worst of dangers, you were not able to seek asylum (in) the United States,” Borras said.

The federal judge’s decision, applauded by many migrant advocacy groups, said the strict additional layers make it next to impossible for many who are seeking refuge in the United States.

“So, this ruling is something that we celebrate as people who believe in a safe, humane process and really want to make sure that the spirit of our laws that are reflective of people’s right to seek safety are protected,” said Marisa Limón Garza, executive director of the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.

Limón Garza said the policy echoes back to the Trump administration’s policy of really making it so that people have to seek protection in another country before coming to the southern border.

“That’s one major facet, and that’s incredibly challenging when Congress has said that we should have people be able to seek protection from U.S. soil,” said Limón Garza.

In 2019, the same judge blocked several different asylum bans — one was an entry ban that made people ineligible for asylum if they entered between ports of entry.

The other was a transit ban that would disqualify people from seeking asylum if they passed through a third country en route to the U.S. and didn’t seek protection in at least one other country along the way.

“The Biden administration’s rule is in some ways kind of a mashup of these two prior bans that had been blocked during the Trump administration. And the case that was decided yesterday was actually filed as a supplemental complaint to our prior complaint challenging the entry ban,” said Melissa Crow, director of litigation at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

Crow said the federal judge found the Biden policy was invalid both substantively and procedural.

“He found that it was arbitrary and capricious because essentially, the government had created a smokescreen that there were all of these lawful pathways that people could use to seek asylum in the United States, but in fact, it’s entirely possible that people wouldn’t be eligible for any of them,” said Crow.

The federal judge stayed his decision for 14 days. This gives the government a chance to appeal or ask for a longer stay.

Limón Garza said they would like to see a policy that’s more reflective of the needs of people at the southern border.

“We’d also like to see more pathways for legal immigration to this country. We know that asylum is one of the pathways that is used now, and it’s being virtually cut off. So, we need other lawful pathways so that people can seek protection here in the United States and migrate back safely,” said Limón Garza.

About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.