This week may be the most critical for immigrants since the start of the Biden administration. New “reforms” will come into effect at the Southern border on Thursday, May 11, replacing the entry ban enacted under Title 42.

Although Biden campaigned on a promise of reversing the Trump administration’s most harmful practices, the proposed policies further promote harsh deterrence methods and expand detention, surveillance, and deportation within the United States. Here is what you need to know.

The End of Title 42

Title 42, the outdated public health law that both the Biden and Trump administrations weaponized to essentially block individuals from seeking asylum in the United States, will end on May 11, 2023.

Thousands of migrants have been stuck in Mexico (and legal limbo) because of Title 42, and its end will finally allow them to exercise their legal right to seek protection in the U.S.

However, faced with the end of Title 42, the Biden administration has found other ways to block people from seeking safety. These are the new sweeping immigration reforms announced last month. The reforms will severely restrict migrants’ rights to apply for asylum, deny them access to legal counsel and other due process rights, and crack down on people already living in the United States by expanding detention and increasing deportations.

The “Reforms”

The Biden Administration is making false claims that these new “reforms” will create more pathways for migration. While a few niche programs—notably, the expanded parole processes—will help a small fraction of migrants, their inclusion in the reforms should not mislead people from understanding the full effect of Biden’s new proposals.

A much larger number of people —also in need of protection—will be unable to access asylum because of the multiple barriers listed below.

1. The government will implement Trump-era restrictions at the border through a previously proposed asylum ban.

Regardless of their manner of entry, longstanding U.S. and international laws protect the rights of people to ask for asylum. It typically does not matter when, where, or how a person crosses the border. So long as a person is on U.S. soil, asylum is theirs to ask for (note: they may not be granted asylum, but they have the right to demand a legally-sound asylum process).

Biden’s new asylum ban will, in most cases, cut off access to ask for asylum for migrants who are not able to navigate the new CBPOne mobile application (which has well-documented glitches) to make an appointment at a specific port of entry at the border. Asylum-seekers who are not able to apply for and complete the process for asylum in the countries they pass through while fleeing to the U.S. may also be barred. The result is that large numbers of people in need of protection will be barred from being able to request asylum in the United States.

2. The government is forcing the use of a defective CBPOne mobile app.

The new policy that migrants use the CBPOne app to seek asylum is laughable. Not only does the individual fleeing for their life need access to a mobile device and cellular service, but the app has proven faulty, unreliable, and complicated for migrants to use.

Imagine, if you will, risking your life and the lives of your family on an app. Now imagine you find the app does not work, is riddled with glitches, may not be available in your language, and may not even allow you to use its facial recognition system if you are Black.

Furthermore, appointments are limited, and when appointments are available, they are granted on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning that requests for protection are not prioritized based on the level of danger that an individual is facing.

3. Due process is discarded in favor of speed.

The new policies are designed for rapid deportations by imposing unreasonably fast “procedures” and denying migrants the time and ability to speak to a lawyer about their case.

The reforms state that credible fear interviews—the first step in the legal process to seek asylum—must be conducted via phone within 24 hours of a migrant arriving in detention. This deprives migrants of the time needed to find a lawyer for help—particularly for those who cannot afford a private attorney.

Given the capacity limitations of border organizations, the long waitlists to obtain a pro bono attorney, and the basic obstacles an asylum seeker must overcome to connect to an attorney, a 24-hour deadline fundamentally denies them legal counsel.

These procedures will further stress the capacity of legal services and humanitarian organizations at the Southern border.

4. Detention, “alternatives-to-detention,” and deportations will increase.

The government plans to increase detention capacity, expand government surveillance and the monitoring of migrants, and deport people who have final orders of removal.

These changes will have devastating consequences, not only at the border but also in our local communities. Individuals will be deported to countries where they may face dangerous situations, children will be forcibly separated from their parents, families will face severe emotional and financial hardships due to the loss of a caregiver, and communities will lose valuable members.

These new policies will make it nearly impossible for migrants to seek asylum in the United States. The policies restrict asylum applications to only those migrants who can successfully use the CBPOne mobile app and bar nearly all other migrants. For those migrants who do cross the border, the government’s plan to implement only the most superficial due process protections while increasing detention capacity, alternatives to detention, and deportation flights, show a lack of understanding of the trauma and violence forcing migrants to flee their homes. 

The end of Title 42 is an opportunity to create a just and humane immigration system that we know is possible—as we’ve witnessed with the arrival of Ukrainian refugees at the Southern border. Seeking asylum is a legal right, and no individual should be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. The Biden administration is squandering this chance by continuing oppressive, harmful deterrents and implementing policies that violate due process.

Southern Border