More than 70 Senate and House Democrats signed a letter urging Biden to make changes to his immigration policy. In a letter obtained by The New York Times, the Democratic legislators assert that it is necessary for the president to reflect on policies that limit access to asylum. They see this as a potential remedy for the illegal immigration crisis at the southern border. "We encourage your administration to stand by your commitment to restore and protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees," the congressmen wrote.
The letter mentioned Trump administration policies, including the notorious Title 42, which reduces migrants' access to asylum at the southern border. The Biden administration announced recently that it would expand the use of the rule to immediately remove migrants coming from certain countries who were previously allowed to apply for asylum in the U.S. on a temporary basis: "We are therefore distressed by the deeply inconsistent choice to expand restrictions on asylum seekers," the letter said.
The letter is by New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, California Sen. Alex Padilla, as well as notable members of Congress such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Greg Casar (D-Texas) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). It does not have the support of Democratic leaders in Congress and the Senate. According to The New York Times, this is yet another sign of the division within the Democratic party regarding immigration policy.
Republicans sue Biden
The letter comes at a bad time for Joe Biden. On Tuesday, the president was sued by 20 Republican states regarding the legality of the humanitarian parole program, the bill that allows thousands of immigrants from certain countries to enter the U.S. for a month.
The lawsuit may be short-lived. While a bill could pass in the House of Representatives, where the GOP holds power, the measure would almost certainly be stalled in the Senate, where Democrats have the majority.
The program demanded by the Republicans also does not have the support of the Democrats who signed the letter. The Democrat-backed letter praised the Biden administration for creating a new legal avenue for immigration. However, they believe it should not be at the expense of broader access to asylum:
This, in effect, is a transit ban. The courts rightly rejected the Trump administration's attempt to categorically end asylum when he similarly required asylum seekers to seek asylum in transit countries. Specifically, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Trump -Era Third Country Transit ban violated well- settled U.S. asylum laws that prohibit turning people away unless they have firmly resettled in a transit country, especially not if conditions in the transit country are not safe.