Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic policy that was used to expel nearly 3 million asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border without due process, was lifted Thursday just before midnight after three years of enforcement. Thousands of migrants have been stranded across the southern border hoping to be processed and allowed into the U.S. But many will likely be blocked, as the Biden administration begins implementing what immigration rights advocates have denounced as another ban on the right to seek asylum under domestic and international law. A new policy announced this week would force the majority of asylum seekers to request refugee status in another country before reaching the U.S., or face quick deportation. The ACLU and others are suing over the rule. Another directive requires asylum applicants to make their appointments on a Customs and Border Protection smartphone app that asylum applicants say is riddled with software bugs and raises serious concerns over privacy.
At the San Ysidro border crossing in California, hundreds of asylum seekers have been sleeping on the ground under trash bags and foil blankets — with many reporting they’ve not eaten in days. This is Hashmatullah Habibi, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan who said Thursday he and his family have nowhere else to go.
Hashmatullah Habibi: “Oh, I’m just hoping and praying that today they take us in, because if they don’t take us in, then my future and my family’s future is in doubt, because we escaped from darker place, dark side, and we came here for a better life. And if they don’t take us in, the situation will be more awful for us, because we cannot go back and we cannot come in. So, it’s like dying situation.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has detained some 28,000 migrants at its border facilities in recent days; meanwhile, the number of asylum seekers attempting to cross into the U.S. has topped 10,000 a day as people continue to flee violence, extreme poverty and the impacts of the climate crisis. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday warned migrants arriving at the border of even harsher consequences.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: “If anyone arrives at our southern border after midnight tonight, they will be presumed ineligible for asylum and subject to steeper consequences for unlawful entry, including a minimum five-year ban on reentry and potential criminal prosecution.”