Biden asylum rule opposition pushes Democratic minority caucuses together

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BALTIMORE — The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is working with the Congressional Tri-Caucus to write a statement opposing the Biden administration’s new rule that would restrict which migrants can apply for asylum at the border, revving up the group’s disapproval of the plan and setting the stage for a clash with the White House.

Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), the chair of the CHC, announced the effort on Thursday during a press conference at the House Democrats’ issues conference in Baltimore. She was joined by other members of the group.

“One of the things we’re doing in this Congress is we’re working closely with the Tri-Caucus. Right now we’re in the mix of working with the Tri-Caucus to see if we can come up with a unified comment opposing the rulemaking on the proposed changes on making asylum harder on the southern border,” Barragán said.

The California Democrat said she has had conversations with the other Tri-Caucus chairs — those who lead the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus — “who have expressed concern and opposition to it.”

“So we see this as one of many opportunities to work together as a Tri-Caucus on many issues,” she added.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), the deputy chair of the CHC, said the Hispanic Caucus is “drafting the statement and we’re gonna run it by them.”

“We want to hear their concerns regarding the new rules and whether they create additional hurdles for people that are seeking asylum. That should be dealt with and I think there’s room for — always room for improvement all the time,” he added.

The Tri-Caucus’s stand against the administration’s asylum proposal piles on to a barrage of negative commentary about the policy from advocates and Democrats, including members of the three groups.

Advocates have already said if the rule is enacted, they will sue the Biden administration on grounds similar to lawsuits they won against Trump administration immigration policies.

The Tri-Caucus’s stand on the asylum proposal is also somewhat of a revival.

The alliance saw its heyday opposing a series of Trump administration policies that members believed to be unfavorable to the communities the group represents, but the group has been relatively quiet under the Biden administration.

Still, many Tri-Caucus members have personally voiced their personal opposition to the asylum proposal.

The proposal would essentially make it more difficult for migrants to request asylum in the United States when they arrive by land.

It would also make it more difficult for migrants to apply for asylum if they’ve transited through a third country on their way to the United States, a feature of the policy that’s drawn direct comparisons to the Trump administration’s so-called transit ban.

Administration officials have vehemently denied any comparison to the Trump transit ban, mainly on the grounds that it would impose a “rebuttable presumption,” rather than an outright ban on asylum applications.

The rule would also push migrants to seek asylum using the CBP One app, a platform that’s been criticized for issues like lacking indigenous languages used by many Central American migrants.

Paired with the administration’s new immigration parole policy — which has proven popular among Tri-Caucus members — the asylum rule seeks to redirect flows of migrants away from the border.

The rollout of the new asylum and parole policies is also intended to prepare border officials for the end of Title 42, a pandemic-era authority that the Biden administration has used to execute more than 2.5 million expulsions.

Few Democrats have backed the administration’s asylum rule, but one CHC member, Rep. Henry Cuéllar (D-Texas), came out in favor of the rule Sunday, calling it “reasonable.”

Cuéllar, who represents a border district that relies heavily on trade with Mexico, has in the past been a proponent of strong border security measures that put him at odds with other CHC members.

Cuéllar, who in November said he flat-out rejected Republican entreaties to switch parties, says opposition to the Biden asylum proposal stems from unfamiliarity with life on the border.

“Media, usually they’ll call up the immigration activists, New York, Washington, Virginia and all that. But when was the last time the media called the border mayors, border landowners, the border county judges, the border communities, the cities, the counties, the ones that have to deal with this every single year,” Cuéllar said.

“So I think as Democrats we can have border security but then at the same time, have a way to respect and provide dignity to any migrant that wants to seek asylum or any other relief under the law.”

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