The United States could bar tens of thousands of migrants from arriving at the US-Mexico border under a proposed plan which would require some asylum seekers to book a meeting with US officials first.
Under the new rules proposed on Tuesday, migrants who do not schedule an appointment at a US border port of entry or use humanitarian programmes available to certain nationalities would be ineligible for asylum except in certain cases.
They must also first seek protection in countries they pass through to be able to claim asylum once in the US.
The plan would be the most wide-ranging attempt yet by Joe Biden‘s administration to deter unauthorised crossings and mirrors similar efforts under Donald Trump, which were blocked in court.
The measure is likely to face legal challenges and critics say it ignores dangerous conditions and limited asylum capacity in transit countries where migrants will be expected to seek protection.
“It’s a terrible example of trying to flout your domestic and international legal obligations,” said Karen Musalo, director of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California College of the Law.
The measure would apply to single adults and families, but not unaccompanied children.
Under the plan, prospective migrants would need to use legal pathways like using a phone app to book an appointment to speak with a US immigration official at a border entry point.
Crossings could reach up to 13,000 per day
But critics highlight technical problems with the app and say it’s not clear how many appointments are available every day.
The Biden administration began discussing the ban and other Trump-style measures last year as a way to reduce illegal crossings if COVID-era restrictions allowing many migrants to be expelled back to Mexico ended.
The COVID border policy, known as Title 42, denies asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID. The policy is expected to end in May.
The new proposal estimates border crossings could reach up to 13,000 per day – up from a daily average of about 5,000 in January, if no action is taken after Title 42 ends.
Two buses of migrants dropped off near Kamala Harris’s home
The measure will be subject to a 30-day public consultation period before being reviewed for final approval. It would be temporary and limited to a period of two years, with the possibility to extend it.
Officials insist the measure is different from Mr Trump’s, largely because there is room for exemptions and because it has made other legal pathways available, particularly humanitarian parole for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Ukrainians.