Administration unveils transit ban 2.0, completing shift to restrictionism as default—02-25-23
Immigration news, in context
This is the 152nd edition of BORDER/LINES, a weekly newsletter by Felipe De La Hoz and Gaby Del Valle designed to get you up to speed on the big developments in immigration policy. Reach out with feedback, suggestions, tips, and ideas at BorderLines.News@protonmail.ch.
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This week’s edition:
In The Big Picture, we delve into the Biden administration’s proposed asylum regulations, which are essentially a revamping of Trump’s asylum ban.
In Under the Radar, we discuss the rise in unauthorized migration to Canada.
In Next Destination, we look at the effects of the New York Times’s investigation into migrant child labor.
The Big Picture
The news: Facing the termination of the Title 42 policy it has come to depend on as the COVID emergency declaration expires in May, the Biden administration has decided not to use the opportunity to return to some semblance of normal processing under Title 8, the part of the law that generally governs immigration and includes the asylum statutes. Instead, Biden is attempting to enact a new version of a Trump-era asylum restriction. In a proposed rule issued last week, the administration laid out an effort to prohibit asylum for people who had transited through a third country on their way to the United States unless they had already been rejected for asylum there first, faced some sort of emergency situation, or found an appointment using the government’s poorly-functioning CBP One app.
Despite the new rule going to significant lengths to draw a distinction with the earlier Trump one, which was blocked and thrown out in federal court, the basics of it are the same, and the intended impact is undoubtedly corresponding: to block the ability of asylum seekers to be able to access the regular asylum system. That’s not particularly notable — an obsessive focus on cutting down on asylum was the linchpin of Trump and Stephen Miller’s immigration policy, after all — except for the fact that it’s being issued entirely under the auspices of the Biden administration. While advocates were shocked at the administration’s decision to maintain Title 42, at least it was a hanger-on from the Trump presidency. This is all Biden.
It’s particularly disconcerting given that Biden launched his presidency in the first place by rolling back multiple Trump-era executive orders in a symbolic break from the past, after having campaigned in part on denouncing the cruelty of the Trump approach. Unlike his predecessor, Biden’s turn towards a default posture of restrictionism at the border probably isn’t borne from some sort of deep-seated animosity and disgust for humanitarian migrants, but rather Biden’s naturally calculating approach to politics, which values a certain play-all-sides pragmatism. That might work well in attempting to negotiate the specifics of an infrastructure bill, but it’s much dicier when it involves access to a legally protected right and fulfillment of international and domestic legal obligations.
Under the Radar
Unauthorized migration to Canada on the rise
The number of unauthorized migrants entering Canada via the United States has more than doubled since 2019, with nearly 40,000 people crossing into the country without authorization in 2022, the New York Times reports. The rise in migrants is being driven by asylum seekers, many of whom would have in previous years attempted to settle in the United States.
Nearly 5,000 people crossed into Canada via the United States in January. While these numbers are a tiny fraction of the number of monthly crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, they suggest that asylum seekers are finding the United States to be increasingly hostile. New York City, for example, recently began buying bus tickets for migrants who wanted to apply for asylum in Canada instead.
The United States and Canada have a Safe Third Country agreement that, in theory, requires migrants to apply for asylum in whichever of the two countries they reach first. But that agreement only applies to migrants who ask for asylum at ports of entry, not for those who cross between official entry points.
Biden administration announces crackdown on migrant child labor
Following a bombshell investigation by the New York Times’s Hannah Dreier which revealed that migrant children as young as 12 are working in factories, on farms, in restaurants, and in other grueling jobs, the Biden administration has announced a new initiative to investigate and crack down on child labor violations.
The Times investigation focused on children who crossed the border without their parents and were later matched with sponsors in the United States, typically relatives or family friends. Many of them reported having to take jobs to send money to their families back home or to pay off the steep fees they owed to smugglers hired to get them across the border. The children were able to circumvent their inability to legally work—both due to their age and their immigration status—by finding employment through third-party staffing agencies that paired them with employers, including dairy farms, factories, and commercial laundries.
In response to the investigation, the Department of Labor said that it will target both the factories and suppliers that employ migrant children, as well as the companies that source their products from these suppliers. The Department of Labor has already begun investigating Hearthside Food Solutions, which operates plants that make food for large companies including General Mills and Frito-Lay.