EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Biden administration policies are forcing asylum-seekers to attempt dangerous crossings or seek out smugglers to come into the United States, a nonprofit reports.

Those include refusing to accept asylum petitions at U.S. ports of entry and keeping in place “an illegal” Trump-era policy allowing for the immediate expulsion of newly arrived migrants on public health grounds, a Human Rights First report states.

The New York and Washington, D.C.-based organization is calling on Biden to end Title 42 as a means to block and expel migrants and asylum-seekers, restart asylum processing at the ports, increase staffing to process asylum claims and support community groups providing shelter and legal services to migrants.

“With access to asylum at ports of entry blocked, many asylum seekers are pushed into the hands of deadly cartels that reap huge profits from kidnapping, torturing and extorting migrants,” Human Rights First alleges. “Violent cartels and other criminal organizations who exercise control of many areas along the border threaten, extort and abuse people forced to seek U.S. protection between ports of entry.”

Many of those migrants, particularly in the Yuma, Arizona, area that saw a huge spike in unauthorized crossings last December, were Venezuelans, Haitians and Cuban. More than 96 percent of citizens of the latter two countries came into the United States as asylum-seekers prior to 2018, noted Julia Neusner, associate attorney for refugee protection with the group. Now, less than 3 percent are able to file claims.

The group cited a Kino Border Initiative assessment that criminal gangs across the border from Nogales, Arizona, are harassing migrants turned away from ports of entry where they had hoped to file a claim. Those migrants stranded in Mexico are targeted for kidnapping and other crimes not only in Nogales but also in San Luis Rio Colorado, the Mexican town south of Yuma, Arizona, the groups allege.

Human Rights First said conservative U.S. politicians are also exploiting the migrant surge to stroke xenophobia and make misleading claims about rising crime on the U.S. side of the border.