Dozens of pro-immigrant groups criticized President Joe Biden's asylum policies on Friday, saying continued expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and other deterrent measures were "cruel, unlawful and ineffective."
In a letter to Biden and his top immigration officials, more than 80 organizations urged the Democratic president to restore the ability of all migrants to claim asylum in the United States and eschew any new policies that limit asylum access.
Promising a more humane immigration approach, Biden has reversed many of the restrictive immigration policies of his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump. But the Democratic president has kept one of Trump's most limiting measures which allows U.S. authorities to expel migrants caught crossing the southern border back to Mexico. The groups urged Biden not to adopt any policies that force migrants to wait in Mexico for the resolution of their U.S. cases, which they said "would unquestionably put individuals in danger and violate U.S. asylum law."
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Thursday that the United States would expand an online asylum registration system https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-expand-online-asylum-registration-amid-unprecedented-border-arrivals-2021-08-12 in the hopes migrants will apply remotely, adding that more changes would be announced in the coming days.
Mayorkas did not say which asylum seekers would be eligible to use the online system.
Last week, the Biden administration began flying some Central American and Mexican migrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border to southern Mexico in an effort to deter crossers.
In the letter to Biden, the groups said they were "gravely concerned" about the flights to southern Mexico and reports that migrants were then bused to a remote part of Guatemala.
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center, which signed the letter, said the flights signaled the Biden administration was taking a more restrictive stance.
She said it appears Biden is focusing only on arrests and deportation and not on the rights of the asylum seekers as his promises of a more humane approach implied. "That absolutely contradicts what the Biden administration said they were going to do," she said.
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