asylum claims

Deciphering the Asylum Policy Debate: A Legal Perspective

In the complex world of immigration law, understanding the nuances of asylum policies is crucial. A recent development, as reported by Alyssa Aquino in Law360, underscores the ongoing debate about the legal requirements for asylum-seekers at U.S. borders. As an experienced immigration attorney and former immigration officer, I offer insights into this critical issue that is shaping the landscape of immigration law.

The Biden administration, addressing the Ninth Circuit, has asserted that border officers are not legally obligated to inspect asylum-seekers who are at the border but have not physically entered U.S. territory. This position is rooted in sections 1225 and 1158 of the U.S. Code, which stipulate the requirement for officers to inspect a noncitizen who is “present in the U.S. … or who arrives in the United States,” and to receive asylum claims from those “physically present in the United States.”

This interpretation challenges a 2021 ruling by a California federal court, which mandated the government to inspect and process asylum-seekers at ports of entry. U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant’s decision came after hearing claims of an informal deterrence program that left asylum-seekers in perilous conditions in Mexican border towns or forced them to enter the U.S. between designated ports of entry.

The legal debate intensified during oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit. U.S. Circuit Judge Ryan Nelson expressed skepticism about the asylum-seekers' stance, noting the absence of historical precedent for their argument. The crux of the issue lies in whether the government’s so-called metering policy constitutes a withholding or a delay of a right, and if it's a delay, whether it is reasonable.

The administration’s response is clear: there is no inspection duty owed to arriving asylum-seekers. However, the administration contends that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have not unlawfully withheld inspections, as they continue to inspect noncitizens and refer them to asylum officers. The law, according to the administration, does not define a specific timeline for these obligations, granting broad authority to control borders.

This case, Al Otro Lado Inc. et al. v. Mayorkas et al., raises critical questions about the rights of asylum-seekers and the responsibilities of U.S. immigration officials. It highlights the balancing act between maintaining border security and upholding humanitarian obligations under U.S. and international law.

As immigration attorneys, we are keenly aware of the importance of staying informed about such pivotal legal developments. Understanding the legal framework and its practical implications is essential for providing accurate and effective counsel to our clients. This case is particularly significant for those seeking asylum, as it could set a precedent for how asylum claims are processed at the U.S. border.

In conclusion, the ongoing debate in the Ninth Circuit is more than a legal argument; it reflects the broader challenges faced in the realm of immigration law. It underscores the need for skilled legal representation for those navigating the complexities of asylum claims. Our commitment as a law firm is to provide our clients with expert guidance and advocacy in these challenging times, ensuring their rights are protected in the face of evolving legal landscapes.


“Feds Tell 9th Circ. Migrants Must Be In US To Claim Asylum” by Alyssa Aquino, Law360, January 18, 2024.

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