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Biden administration asylum policy garners criticism, especially in CA

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The new policy has garnered wide criticism from immigration advocates.


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FEBRUARY 26, 2023

The Biden administration announced a federal measure proposal that would deny asylum to undocumented migrants Tuesday.

Aiming to alleviate increasing numbers of fleeing migrants at the southern border of the United States, the proposed policy is to be posted for a 30-day public comment period and would take effect on May 11 as Title 42, a pandemic-based Trump administration border policy, expires, as reported by the New York Times.

The new policy has garnered wide criticism from immigration advocates.

Lisa Knox, legal director of the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, stated that current U.S. immigration law permits all migrants, regardless of how they entered, to seek protection and apply for asylum.

“This new policy would prohibit people who make an unauthorized entry from requesting asylum in most cases,” Knox said in an email.

There are a few exceptions, noted Rachel Kafele, legal program director at OASIS, a legal immigration service for LGBTQ+ immigrants. She alleged that these exceptions would “prioritize” rich and white asylum applicants, leaving out Black, brown and poor migrants, and that the policy allegedly “violates” the United States’ old immigration laws, signed international treaties and its “moral obligation” towards asylum seekers.

Knox also alleged that this policy is simply a “revival” of a “xenophobic” Trump-era measure.

Moreover, Kafele said she worries that Biden is going back on promises he made throughout his campaign, as well as the executive order he signed in his first days in office, which mentioned an updated and modernized rewrite of asylum regulations to include victims of domestic and gang violence.

“During his campaign he spoke out against Trump’s asylum ban; he said he was against it,” Kafele said. “That was one of the distinctions he drew between himself and Trump. So he’s going back on that campaign promise.”

Knox shared similar thoughts, adding her disappointment in the Biden administration for “continuing Trump policies” despite his promise to welcome those seeking protection in the U.S..

Both she and Kafele specified that the new asylum measure will especially impact mass immigrant communities within California state lines. 

The state hosts several “sanctuary cities and counties,” communities with municipal jurisdiction to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. California itself is often considered a “sanctuary state,” according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

“We are lucky to have immigrants living in California; it’s really what makes this state a wonderful place to live in,” Kafele said. “Asylum seekers come and they come to communities where they have community, where they have family, where they feel welcome.”

The impact on California includes less people permitted to live here, less people enabled to work permits and less people able to contribute to local communities, Kafele noted. Without work permits, migrants are more susceptible to labor exploitation and trafficking, preventing them from supporting their families, she added.

Thus, the measure would impact thousands of Californians seeking reunification with loved ones who aim to enter the U.S., Knox noted. 

“To just completely close the door on people or to pretend that there still isn’t a possibility where people can get asylum really goes against what this country stands for and what kind of promises we made after World War 2: that we weren’t going to turn away people who were seeking safety in the United States,” Kafele said.

Contact Carolyn Yu at 


FEBRUARY 27, 2023