Migrants seeking asylum can present at ports of entry to make their claim, but under the Trump administration, DHS put in place policies limiting the processing of undocumented immigrants, including asylum seekers, at ports. The practice, known as “metering,” essentially created a waitlist to allow people to enter only if the department had the capacity to process and detain them at one of its facilities.
The latest memo, dated November 1, rescinds that policy, but migrants could still be expelled under a Trump-era public health order allowing the swift removal of migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border.
“This memo formally rescinds the Trump Administration’s ‘metering’ policy, which was used to turn back asylum seekers trying to enter ports of entry (POE). The new guidance lays out a vision for the lawful, orderly processing of individuals applying for asylum at POEs. Among other improvements, CBP is directed to accelerate ongoing efforts to digitize processing at POEs and more effectively use data to increase throughput,” US Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.
Limiting entry of asylum seekers at legal ports of entry under the previous administration fielded criticism from immigrant advocates and attorneys who argued it denied asylum seekers the right to pursue their claims. A 2020 Homeland Security inspector general report also found that CBP staff turned away asylum seekers at some ports of entry and in some cases, that led asylum seekers and other undocumented immigrants to cross the US-Mexico border illegally.
The Monday memo, from acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller, now directs Office of Field Operations management along the US southern border “to consider and take appropriate measures, as operationally feasible, to increase capacity to process undocumented noncitizens at Southwest Border POEs, including those who may be seeking asylum and other forms of protection.” It also notes that other priorities, like facilitating trade, should be considered when processing undocumented immigrants.
Those measures could include using a mobile application where undocumented immigrants can submit information and collaborating with non-governmental organizations and other partners.
Port of entries “must strive to process all travelers, regardless of documentation status, who are waiting to enter, as expeditiously as possible, based on available resources and capacity,” the memo reads.
DHS is also preparing to reopen the nation’s land borders for Covid-19 vaccinated foreign nationals next week after travel was restricted due to the coronavirus.