Lawyers Call for Better Management of Migration at the Border

Lawyers Call for Better Management of Migration at the Border

Migration at the border has long been a contentious issue, with the focus often placed on deportation. However, a group of lawyers is now urging the government to shift its approach and prioritize the management of migration instead.

The Association of American Immigration Lawyers (AILA) argues that with the right resources and funding, the United States can effectively and humanely address the challenges at the border while ensuring due process for migrants.

AILA’s Plea to the Biden Administration

In a letter addressed to President Joe Biden, AILA expressed concern over the reported changes in the government’s border policy and its emphasis on deportations. The association called on the administration to take measures focused on “managing” the crisis rather than prioritizing mass deportations.

AILA highlighted the need to address the situation at the southern border in an orderly and effective manner while safeguarding the fair treatment and human rights of individuals fleeing their countries due to violence, poverty, and the effects of climate change.

AILA emphasized that since President Biden took office, there has been a significant increase in refugee flows, resulting in historic numbers of asylum seekers and other migrants. The association underscored the importance of managing these unprecedented flows while acknowledging the challenges posed by a Congress that may be unwilling or unable to provide the necessary tools and resources to address the border crisis effectively.

Concerns over Proposed Changes to Border Policy

AILA expressed deep concern over reports suggesting that the administration plans to implement a national deportation authority at the border and raise the legal standard for credible fear interviews, a crucial requirement for initiating an asylum claim.

The association highlighted that previous restrictions on access to the border, such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and Title 42, have already proven ineffective in improving order and security in the border region. These measures have resulted in dangerous humanitarian situations, leaving thousands of vulnerable individuals, including children and families, exposed to cartel attacks and smugglers.

Association warned that if the proposed measures violate the rights of individuals in the United States and international asylum law, particularly by returning eligible individuals to life-threatening conditions, AILA will oppose them.

Furthermore, AILA expressed concerns about the potential misuse of Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which grants the President authority to suspend entry or impose restrictions, as it could be invoked to restrict access to asylum and exceed the President’s authority.

Potential Risks and Impact on Asylum Seekers

AILA cautioned President Biden about the risks of exceeding his authority by using executive powers to suspend entry and undermine the legal right to seek asylum, either at ports of entry or between them.

The association pointed out that individuals with limited English proficiency already face exceptional difficulties comprehending complex U.S. immigration laws and demonstrating their eligibility for asylum without the assistance of an attorney. The current low asylum approval rates should be understood within the context of an inherently unfair legal process that disadvantages asylum seekers, particularly those detained without legal representation.

Association also highlighted the potential consequences of an expulsion authority, which would likely result in summary expulsions at the border without adequate assessments due to insufficient personnel and resources.

AILA urged the administration to consider the challenges faced by migrants who lack legal representation and are detained, emphasizing that these individuals have slim chances of winning their cases. AILA cited the failure of recent negotiations in the Senate to approve a bipartisan immigration agreement, which included funding for border resources and personnel, as evidence of the urgent need for additional congressional appropriations.

AILA’s Proposed Solutions

In its letter, AILA recommended a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to address the border situation. The association emphasized the critical need for budget allocations to support all agencies involved in the immigration process.

Without sufficient funding, the implementation of an effective border management system will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. AILA stressed that the absence of available funds will exacerbate the confusion and uncertainty at the border.

AILA outlined several solutions that could contribute to managing migration at the border effectively:

  • Maximizing capacity at ports of entry to process individuals and vehicle traffic efficiently.
  • Strengthening law enforcement efforts to combat fentanyl and other narcotics smuggling, firearms trafficking, and human trafficking.
  • Increasing the number of asylum officers within the immigration service.
  • Providing resources to cities to support asylum seekers upon arrival.
  • Ensuring access to legal representation for individuals who cannot afford an attorney.
  • Expanding legal pathways to reduce arrivals at the border.
  • Providing foreign assistance and support to regional partners to enhance controls, protect migrants, and address the underlying causes of migration.

AILA emphasized that viable options are available within the United States to improve processing times at the border, provide legal representation, and offer emergency funding. However, without additional congressional authorization, the situation will remain uncertain and inhumane. The association concluded the letter by highlighting the need to address immigration laws comprehensively, including visa reform and the legalization of undocumented individuals, such as Dreamers and those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Biden administration has not confirmed or denied the reported changes to border policy, including the potential use of Section 212(f), but AILA’s call for a shift towards managing migration at the border reflects a growing sentiment among legal experts and advocates for a more humane and effective approach to immigration.

The coming months will likely determine the extent to which the administration embraces these recommendations and implements policies that align with AILA’s vision of a well-managed border that upholds due process and protects the rights of migrants.