A group of 77 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday criticizing his administration’s policies that restrict access to asylum for migrants crossing the southern border.

The letter, signed by New Jersey Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 74 others, says the new policies announced Jan. 5 open up more legal options for migrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba. while eliminating the avenues for those nationalities to request asylum at the border is «disappointing.»

While 30,000 migrants from those four countries will be eligible to apply for humanitarian parole protections from their countries of origin, Mexico has also agreed to take back 30,000 migrants per month from those same countries as the Biden administration expands Covid protections from the was Trump known as Title 42.

At a press conference on Thursday, Menéndez said: “We recognize that the United States is experiencing a difficult immigration challenge at the southern border. But as elected officials, we have a duty to propose legal solutions, one that protects asylum seekers while ensuring the safe removal of migrants who have no legal right to remain in the United States.»

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also said the administration is preparing to propose a new federal rule that would allow his department to deny the right to seek asylum at the southern border to migrants who do not first seek asylum in a country for the one they pass

Stephen Miller, the senior adviser behind then-President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies, introduced a similar proposal, commonly known as a «traffic ban,» which was blocked by the courts in 2020.

“Instead of issuing a new asylum transit ban and expanding Title 42,” the Democratic lawmakers said in the letter to Biden, “we encourage your administration to honor its commitment to restore and protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees». The letter noted that asylum is an international right that should not be restricted.

The Biden administration has said its proposal is different because Miller did not allow immigrants to apply from their home countries to legally enter the US.

As many as 20 Republican-ruled states, with the help of a group led by Miller, are now trying to block the administration from pursuing those legal avenues in a new lawsuit recently filed in Texas federal court.

Biden has faced intense criticism for his border policies from both parties, with Republicans saying they are unwilling to negotiate on immigration legislation or more funding for border initiatives until the administration does more to secure the border. He also faces lawsuits from immigration advocates for cutting off the roads for asylum seekers.

Customs and Border Protection encountered undocumented immigrants more than 250,000 times in December, a monthly record to end a record year for border encounters.

Senior Homeland Security officials told reporters on a call Wednesday that since new policies for Haitians, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Cubans went into effect earlier this month, the number of people from those countries crossing the border has increased. drastically reduced.

On January 24, officials said, Customs and Border Protection was encountering 115 migrants from those countries per day on a seven-day average, compared with an average of 3,367 per day on December 11, before the policy went into effect. validity.

But officials did not say how many immigrants from those countries had applied or been approved to come to the US legally under the newly established programs.