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Keeping Immigrants at Bay?

March 25, 2023 | Expert Insights

Since taking office in January 2021, President Joe Biden has faced a significant challenge in immigration policy. He inherited a system fraught with controversy and political debate for years, and his administration's approach to resolving the issue has faced criticism from both sides of the political aisle.


Immigration in most countries, including the U.S. is intrinsically linked to national security. Nationalists view U.S. border control policies as lax and soft on illegal crossers, thus encouraging an increasing number of economic migrants to breach the borders of the continental U.S.

To address these concerns, the administration has rolled out a series of measures to reduce the number of illegal migrants entering the U.S. For example, the administration announced in November 2022 that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Haitians would be barred from asylum if they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Additionally, a rule is being proposed barring migrants from claiming asylum in the U.S. if they did not first seek protection in the first country they passed through on their way to the U.S. border.

The Biden administration has also employed Title 42, a Trump-era provision, to promptly deport migrants under the pretence of public health. Immigration advocates have called this program cruel, seeing it as a migration tool disguised as a public health measure. In the coming months, the Supreme Court will assess its legality.

In addition to controlling the flood of migrants at the southern border, the Biden administration has taken many measures to simplify the asylum procedure. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in July 2021 that it will begin reviewing select asylum requests as part of a new project known as the "dedicated docket." This effort intends to speed the processing of asylum requests from families separated at the border under the "zero tolerance" policy of the previous administration. The specialised docket features a shortened filing procedure for asylum petitions, enabling more efficient processing and adjudication.

Biden administration has also taken steps to alleviate the accumulating backlog of asylum claims. The DHS will enhance the availability of work authorisation cards (EADs) for asylum seekers with pending cases beginning in August 2021. Traditionally, only asylum seekers who had waited more than 180 days for a case determination were eligible for EADs. Under the new policy, EADs will be made available to all asylum seekers who have waited more than 60 days, which is designed to provide better financial stability to individuals awaiting case resolution.



While these efforts to shorten the asylum process have been largely well-received, some immigration advocates are concerned that the administration's emphasis on accelerated processing could result in a less thorough evaluation of asylum applications. They believe that the asylum system is already underfunded and overcrowded and that expediting the procedure could result in errors or an insufficient evaluation of asylum petitions. This also has security connotations.

However, some Democrats have criticised Biden's policies for being too lax, arguing that they have encouraged an influx of both legal and illegal immigrants. Senator Ed Markey has urged the DHS to discontinue the use of the CBP One app, which is required by migrants seeking asylum at the southern border. As per Markey, requiring migrants to submit sensitive information, including biometric and location data, on the app raises "serious privacy concerns."

The app is in fact, designed to rule out Cuban, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Haitians, considered to carry a higher security risk, from using the U.S.- Mexico border as a crossing point and also render ineligible those migrants who did not seek asylum in the first country they entered. The details innocently submitted by the potential migrant ensure his/her disqualification, thus speeding up the process for the few who make the cut.

Despite these criticisms and challenges, the Biden administration remains committed to its immigration policy. In his recent speech, Biden stated that "extremist Republicans" would always run on immigration and could either use it to make political points or help fix the problem. He called on people to collaborate to fix the system.


  • The Biden administration's immigration policies have been met with mixed reactions, particularly regarding handling the ongoing border crisis and the asylum process. While some argue that the administration's efforts to streamline the asylum process and provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants are commendable, others criticise the policies for being too lenient and encouraging illegal immigration.
  • The asylum process needs to be reformed to make it more efficient and equitable for all seeking asylum in the United States. The use of technology, such as the CBP One app, has the potential to expedite the processing of asylum applications, but it must be implemented in a way that does not create inequities or violates applicants' privacy.
  • As the Biden administration continues to navigate the complex issue of immigration, it must strike a balance between compassion and the rule of law. This includes providing a fair and efficient asylum process while ensuring the United States remains a safe and secure nation with controlled borders. Ultimately, a comprehensive and bipartisan approach is necessary to address the root causes of migration and create a sustainable immigration system that benefits the United States and those seeking a better life within its borders.