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UN points to Biden's border measures and warns of threat to 'fundamental human rights'

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The United Nations is taking aim at President Biden’s new border security announcements, accusing the administration of undermining human rights with its efforts to limit the ability of illegal immigrants to apply for asylum in the United States.

“The right to seek asylum is a human right, regardless of a person’s origin, immigration status or how they arrived at an international border,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a statement.

Turk was reacting to government announcements last week of measures aimed at curbing the crushing migration crisis at the southern border, which has seen hundreds of thousands of migrants arrive at the border every month.

President Biden announced an expansion of a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans to include Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans. The program will allow 30,000 of these nationalities to enter the US each month if they have not crossed illegally and already have a sponsor in the country.

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However, this expansion comes hand in hand with an expansion of Title 42 expulsions to include 30,000 illegal immigrants each month from these nationalities. Previously, Mexico did not welcome Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans under the Trump-era public health order. In addition, the government has announced increased use of an alternative removal authority – accelerated removal – to remove those who do not apply for asylum and who cannot be expelled under Title 42.

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Separately, the Department of Homeland Security announced a rule that would make illegal immigrants ineligible for asylum if they “circumvent available and established pathways for legal migration” and fail to apply for asylum in a country they traveled through to reach the US.

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“We anticipate that this action will substantially reduce the number of people attempting to cross our southwest border without going through the legal process,” Biden said.

While immigration rights groups and Democrats have welcomed the expansion of the humanitarian parole program, the expansion of Title 42 — which the Biden administration has sought to end — the asylum limit has aroused their ire.

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In his statement, Turk said the measures “appear to be at odds with the ban on collective expulsion and the principle of non-refoulement”.

“While I welcome measures to create and expand safe and regular pathways, such initiatives must not undermine fundamental human rights, including the right to seek asylum and the right to an individual assessment of protection needs,” he said. “Limited access to humanitarian parole for some cannot replace defending the rights of all to seek protection of their human rights.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas preempted criticism of tougher asylum measures last week, brushing aside accusations that they were akin to the Trump-era transit ban, which immigration activists have also opposed.

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Mayorkas noted that asylum seekers can apply for asylum at ports of entry and with the help of a new CBP One application, and argued that the limits were different from the previous administration due to the availability of legal avenues. He also noted that the rule would include humanitarian exceptions.

“If they don’t use that app, they’ll need to apply for humanitarian aid in one of the countries they’ve traveled through,” he said. “And if they were denied, then – then they are not subject to – not a ban, but a rebuttable presumption of ineligibility. And there is a marked difference between the two,” he said on Sunday.

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