On February 23, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a new rule that would reinstate asylum restrictions put in place under the Trump Administration. The rule would effectively limit asylum to migrants from Mexico and Canada arriving by land and migrants from other countries only if they arrive by a direct flight from their home country. US law has established protections for asylum seekers that are required by our international treaty obligations and reflect our commitment to protecting those who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Removing these protections will result in asylum-seekers being deported to dangerous situations, including torture and assassination. The Trump Administration’s asylum ban was repeatedly struck down as unlawful. Reinstituting this ban defies the Biden Administration’s plan to end restrictions on asylum and shows disregard for the safety of immigrants, including survivors of trafficking and other forms of violence.
An exception to the ban is included for survivors of trafficking, but it is incredibly limited, with difficult standards to meet. The rule exempts only those survivors who can prove they are survivors of human trafficking or face an “imminent and extreme threat to life and safety” at their time of entry into the US. Some trafficking victims are under the control of their traffickers as they cross the border, others are under tremendous stress and trauma from their journey, and few will know the right things to say or have the proper documentation to meet these standards, especially as they are required to do so in an overcrowded, stressful border station without access to a lawyer or support person. The Department of Homeland Security has also proven it does not universally provide due process, enforce exceptions fully and equally, nor provide access to representation. In short, these exceptions do not create meaningful access to asylum and will not be sufficient to ensure survivors are not deported back to their traffickers.
Additionally, the Biden Administration has given the public insufficient time to comment on the proposed asylum ban. Rushing the process of implementing the ban and failing to provide sufficient time for public comment will threaten the safety of asylum seekers. The Biden Administration should take steps to protect asylum and withdraw this proposed rule to prevent serious harm to trafficking survivors and other survivors of abuse, exploitation, and violence.