77 Congressional Democrats sent a letter to President Biden that said his immigrant parole program and proposed asylum rules break the law. But Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, D, who represents a district on the southern border, decided not to sign the letter and said asylum seekers should apply at ports of entry.
“I want to have people have the opportunity to apply for asylum. Except they should do it in a orderly process,” Cuellar said in an interview with Straight Arrow News. “So if they’re able to do it through an orderly process, instead of in-between ports, then the relief is still given.”
“Nowhere in international law, or our own asylum law, does it say that you have to do it in-between ports of entry,” Cuellar continued.
The letter to Biden was signed by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.
“We are further concerned by the administration’s announcement that it will be issuing a proposed rulemaking in the coming days that would require asylum seekers to first apply for asylum in a transit country instead of allowing them to seek their legal right to asylum at our southern border. This, in effect, is a transit ban,” the Democrats told Biden.
They also expressed concern about the immigrant parole program Biden announced Jan. 5.
“While we applaud the creation of new legal pathways for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans modeled off the existing parole programs for Venezuelans, it is disappointing that these pathways come at the expense of the legal right to seek asylum at the southern border,” the letter stated.
The program will allow up to 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti to apply to live and work in the United States for two years. But anyone from those countries who crosses in between ports of entry will be deported to Mexico and made ineligible for the program. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said it’s the reason why preliminary numbers for January show Border Patrol immigrant encounters are down 97% compared to December. Cuellar agrees and thinks it should be expanded.
“I told the Secretary I think we need to apply those consequences to everybody, every country. But a lot of it depends on what the Mexicans, their capacity to hold people over there,” Cuellar said.
Cuellar’s district includes the Border Patrol’s Laredo Sector, which has seen a 40% decrease in Border Patrol immigrant encounters in fiscal year 2023 compared to the same point last year.