An urgent attempt by the Biden administration to send a new injection of money to Ukraine for its war against Russia has stalled on Capitol Hill as congressional Republicans demand sweeping changes to the immigration system.
Bipartisan talks on Capitol Hill to resolve the impasse have focused on the U.S.-Mexico border and whether the United States can continue using its current system to decide who is allowed to enter the country and apply for asylum.
It's a very intense debate that touches on a fundamental principle that has long been at the center of American immigration policy: that the United States should be a refuge for people who were being persecuted or threatened in their home countries.
This is what's at play.
Why focus on asylum?
In recent years, a dizzying number of immigrants have arrived at the southern border of the United States seeking asylum, whether they are eligible or not. The rising number of arrivals during the Biden administration has fueled Republican attacks on the functioning of the asylum system and generated demands for major changes.
Republicans, and a growing number of Democrats, say the system has become dysfunctional because it effectively allows any migrant to enter the country, claim to fear for their life, and remain there for years while their case moves through immigration courts. .
Immigration advocates and experts say U.S. law allows any migrant who crosses the border the right to seek asylum and have their request heard, and that attempts to ban or limit it are illegal and immoral.
Who is supposed to get asylum?
Immigrants are eligible for asylum if, according to the Department of Homeland Security, they cannot return to their country due to “persecution or well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group.” or political opinion.”
In an initial asylum evaluation, known as a credible fear evaluation, immigrants must demonstrate that they would be able to demonstrate that fear of persecution or torture in front of a judge.
Who requests asylum now and what happens to them?
Immigrants from around the world who arrive at the southern border of the United States often request asylum after being detained by Border Patrol agents. These immigrants may be detained and taken for an initial asylum evaluation. But more commonly, because of the diminishing ability to detain people at the border, they are released and placed before the immigration court system to have their asylum claims determined there within a few years.
The Biden administration has acknowledged that many migrants' asylum claims are not legitimate. In a rule issued earlier this year, U.S. officials noted that while 83 percent of people who said they were afraid to avoid rapid deportation at the border between 2014 and 2019 passed the initial asylum screening, only 15 percent of them were ultimately able to obtain asylum in immigration court.
“The fact that large numbers of immigrants pass the credible fear test, only to be denied relief or protection on the merits after a lengthy judicial process, has high costs to the system in terms of resources and time” , says government regulation issued by the Biden administration.
Immigration experts believe the statistics cited by the government may be misleading and more complicated than they appear. But Republicans have seized on the discrepancy, arguing it is grounds for stricter rules and more aggressive policies to detain or expel immigrants.
How did the Trump administration treat asylum seekers?
The Trump administration focused on limiting access to asylum at the southern border. He attempted to do so in several ways, including blocking protections for those who crossed between ports of entry or for those who passed through another country on their way to the United States. These policies were often blocked in federal courts.
A Trump policy that survived several legal challenges forced migrants seeking asylum at the southern border to remain in Mexico for the duration of their immigration court proceedings. The policy was criticized by immigrant advocates and Democrats, including Jill Biden, who visited one of the camps that formed in Mexico while immigrants waited for their hearings.
After the onset of the Covid pandemic, the Trump administration instituted a policy known as Title 42 to immediately reject asylum seekers without access to the same protections.
What changes has Biden made?
The Biden administration rolled back the “Remain in Mexico” program in 2021, allowing migrants who had been delayed there to enter the United States and seek asylum. The administration kept Title 42 in place until it finally attempted to eliminate it last year. Due to legal challenges, it was not lifted until May.
But as arrivals at the border increased, the administration instituted a new asylum policy that resembled Trump-era practices. The policy, which went into effect when Title 42 was lifted, makes it more difficult for migrants who cross into the United States without authorization and do not seek protection in advance to apply for asylum once they arrive. A federal judge struck down that policy in July, saying it was “contrary to the law,” but a federal appeals court said it could continue while the appeal proceeds.
What is being debated in the conversations on Capitol Hill?
Conversations on Capitol Hill have focused on the border and asylum processing.
The Biden administration and Democratic senators have signaled they are willing to tighten initial asylum screening at the border. They have also indicated their willingness to restore a Title 42-like power to immediately return immigrants and expand detention capacity to hold more immigrants.
Republicans have also tried to bring back the Remain in Mexico policy, a move that Democrats have resisted.
Would any of this make any difference?
It is not clear. The number of migrants at the southern border decreased over the summer after Title 42 was lifted and the Biden administration's new effort to limit asylum took effect. However, in recent months the number of detained immigrants has increased. In September alone, there were more than 260,000 migrant arrests at the southern border, according to government figures.
Government officials at the southern border already have a more stringent version of the initial asylum screening, but the government does not appear to have enough detention capacity or asylum officers to comprehensively handle the process.
Raising the initial asylum screening standard “could result in more people being returned, although how many more will depend on how the change is implemented and what resources are allocated,” said Kathleen Bush-Joseph, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. .
He added that the majority of immigrants screened under the Biden administration's new, more restrictive asylum policy “have been deemed in need of protection and have been allowed to enter the country to file their claims.”
Reviving the power to immediately turn back migrants at the border is also no guarantee that they will be deterred from crossing, as the numbers were high even when Title 42 was in effect in recent years.
News USA Today has a skilled online editor and content writer, boasting six years of experience in Media and Broadcasting. News, Finance, Sports, Travel, and Entertainment.