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Post-COVID aslyum regulations begin at border, Biden says it will be 'chaotic for a while'

AP Photo/Felix Marquez, File

The Biden administration Thursday will begin denying asylum to migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without first applying online or seeking protection in a country they passed through. It marks a fundamental shift in immigration policy as the U.S. readies for the end of a key pandemic restriction.

Asylum seekers have been showing up at the border in huge numbers in anticipation of this week’s end of the use of a restriction known as Title 42. That rule has allowed the government to quickly expel migrants to Mexico. U.S. officials warned of difficult days ahead as the program tied to the COVID-19 pandemic expires this week.

President Joe Biden predicts the U.S.-Mexico border will be “chaotic for a while” with the end of pandemic-related restrictions. He spoke Tuesday as 550 active-duty troops began arriving at the border. The restrictions have been in place since 2020, and allowed U.S. officials to quickly return migrants over the border.

In a move to clear out overwhelmed holding facilities, a U.S. official says Border Patrol agents were told Wednesday to begin releasing some migrants with instructions to appear at an immigration office in the United States within 60 days.

Federal officials say they’re putting into place a set of new policies that will clamp down on illegal crossings while offering migrants a legal path to the United States if they apply online through a government app, have a sponsor and pass background checks.