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Biden Administration unveils new plans to help migrants and asylum-seekers

Migrants at America’s southern border with Mexico have been a point of political contention for the past year, as large numbers of people are crossing into the US for work or seeking asylum. The overall number of illegal border crossings has gone up since 2021, with the number of border patrol encounters rising to 2.2 million in 2022, compared to 1.7 million in the previous year. The Biden administration has been taking steps to address this rise, and President Biden outlined a set of new rules in a press conference on Jan. 5. The updated rules are seeking to expand the overall number of migrants, as well as asylum-seekers, which the US accepts each year. President Biden also accompanied these new policies with a message: “If you’re trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua or Haiti, or have agreed to begin a journey to America, do not, do not just show up at the border.”

Many to the political left of President Biden have been critiquing this policy change as it no longer includes the revocation of Title 42, a set of Pandemic-era restrictions initially enforced by the Trump Administration under the recommendation of the CDC. Title 42 allows Border Patrol to refuse entry to the US to all asylum-seekers and migrants from Mexico, as well as other countries, as the CDC sought to minimize infection in crowded border detainment facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. While President Biden rolled back many of the migration policies of former President Trump, the administration enforced Title 42 until the CDC rescinded it in April 2022. However, due to legal battles in the lower courts, a coalition of states brought the issue of revoking the ordinance before the U.S. Supreme Court, who ruled in December 2022 that Title 42 should stay in place as the court deliberates. 

With Title 42 staying in place for the time being, the Biden administration has made moves to begin expelling large numbers of Cuban, Nicaraguan, Haitian and Venezuelan migrants back to Mexico. These migrants were the ones who had already been allowed into the US to begin pursuing their immigration cases. The administration, in order to make up for this, has announced that the US will begin accepting up to 30,000 migrants a month from the four countries combined. However, these migrants would have to apply legally abroad, which includes: passing a background check, being able to afford a plane ticket and having a sponsor in the US, along with other requirements. President Biden has also raised the number of asylum-seekers the US will accept to 15,000 from Latin American countries. Refugees will be awarded asylum status upon the discretion of the US government. 

Proponents of immigration have criticized the administration’s plan, pointing out that the number of migrants from the four countries outlined was more than 80,000 in the month of November 2022, far exceeding the sum put forward by President Biden. Even with these new rules, it would necessitate the deportation (either under Title 42 or under Title 8) of thousands of migrants back to their countries of origin. Many have pointed out that this may constitute a problem for migrants from Cuba or Venezuela, as their countries’ governments remain on icy terms with the US, requiring them to stay in Mexico for an undetermined period of time. Many migrants from other countries face poverty, political instability or other dangerous situations which complicate a return to their country of origin, also requiring them to stay in Mexico. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has previously announced an increase of $200 Million in financial aid for Mexico and other Central American countries in order to help with the rising number of migrants and refugees in the region. Opponents of immigration, as well as Republicans in Congress, have also continued to protest President Biden’s immigration policy. Many lawmakers have begun to call for greater resources to be dedicated to entirely stopping the number of illegal US border crossings. This has now resulted in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) renewing threats of impeachment against Alejandro Mayorkas, the current Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. 

Each of the years since 2020 has resulted in a record number of illegal US border crossings by migrants and refugees. It remains to be seen whether the administration’s new immigration policy will help to dissuade people from attempting to migrate to the US illegally.

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