Biden issues executive order further restricting asylum (2024)

The U.S. will close its doors to asylum seekers when the number of daily migrant encounters between ports of entry reaches an average of 2,500 a week – a number already regularly exceeded – under a presidential proclamation signed by President Joe Biden on Monday.

Under the executive order announced Tuesday, asylum claims for people who cross without authorization between ports of entry would reopen only after that figure drops to an average of 1,500 a day for a week. Migrants could still request appointments for their asylum case to be heard via the CBP One app.

Biden during a Tuesday news conference said he was addressing the border “alone” although he would have preferred to do so through bipartisan legislation. He cited his “strong partnership of trust” with Mexico for a drastic drop in border encounters.

The president asked those who don’t support the move to “be patient,” adding that “doing nothing is not an option.”

“I believe that immigration has always been the lifeblood of America. We’re constantly renewed by the infusion of people and their talent,” Biden said, comparing his policies to Trump’s by saying he would never “demonize immigrants.”

The order also limits “fear screenings” that help determine whether an asylum seeker would be persecuted if returned to their country of origin, and heightens the screening standard for being able to stay in the country to make an asylum claim.

While supporters of the executive order say it was necessary to slow the flow of migrants at the border, human rights advocates fear for migrants’ safety and promise to challenge the policy in the courts.

“If we spent more energy fulfilling the resources needed to take in these refugees we’d be able to manage it,” said Ruben Garcia, founder of the Annunciation House network of migrant shelters in the El Paso region. “We would rise to the occasion.”

Garcia said the policy is devoid of any acknowledgement of the reality that people leave their home countries out of desperate circ*mstances – and that closing the door to asylum seekers will only push the problem south. He referred to the threshold number reported by some media outlets ahead of the official proclamation.

“Mexico has enough issues on its plate and it’s demonstrated it’s having a really difficult time handling the number of refugees arriving there with violence increasing and the inability to provide them protection,” Garcia said, adding that Mexico is not ready to shelter, feed, clothe and keep safe those migrants passing through to get to the United States.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said in a statement that she would have liked to see more immigration relief actions.

“While I understand the administration is doing its best to navigate this challenge without adequate resources and appropriate legislation, I am disappointed that the focus today is only on enforcement,” said Escobar, who serves as Biden’s campaign co-chair, “and it is my sincere hope that administrative actions on immigration relief, like parole in place for the spouses of US citizens and designations of Temporary Protected Status for vulnerable populations, will also happen.”

Escobar noted that illegal migration has increased over the past decade well before Biden was elected president and described today’s migrants as “economic migrants” who are unlikely to qualify for asylum.

She also pointed out her proposed bipartisan legislation, the Dignity Act, stating it would humanely reform outdated border processes and open up legal pathways to migrants.

Immigration is a key topic in presidential elections, and the 2024 race between Biden and former President Donald Trump is no exception as migration at the U.S.-Mexico border has been at the center of debate. Senate Republicans earlier this year killed proposed bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing the number of illegal border crossings after Trump expressed his opposition to the measure.

The Washington Office on Latin America, a research and human rights advocacy organization, in its weekly newsletter update called the Mexican election’s timing “no accident,” stating that “executing the order would depend on Mexico taking more U.S. returns of non-Mexican citizens.”

Claudia Sheinbaum was elected Mexico’s first woman president on Sunday under the Morena party of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Sheinbaum campaigned largely on a vow to continue López Obrador’s legacy, the New York Times reported.

The order announced Tuesday falls under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the president to temporarily suspend entry to aliens or a class of aliens if the president determines entry would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Trump invoked the section several times during his tenure, including in his first week as president to institute a Muslim ban.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser was among border community leaders at the White House for Tuesday’s announcement. He told El Paso Matters on Sunday that no community can address the “humanitarian crisis endlessly.” He called on Congress to work on a bipartisan, long-term solution.

Biden issues executive order further restricting asylum (2)

Border cities such as El Paso have been dealing with fluctuating numbers of migrants arriving at their door – sometimes in record numbers – and looking to state and federal governments to help pay to shelter, feed and transport them.

With funding primarily under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, El Paso has bused 38,700 migrants out of the region since September, the city’s migrant dashboard shows.Average daily migrant encounters in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector alone exceeded 1,000 in six of this year’s 22 weeks, according to the dashboard.

On Tuesday morning, at least five charter buses awaited at the Union Depot Downtown to transport migrants to New York City and other cities, as staff with the El Paso Office of Emergency Management in passenger vans picked up migrants who converge around Sacred Heart Church where they receive shelter and food. The vans take migrants who want to leave the area to the Union Depot, where their paperwork is checked before they board buses.

“We are deeply disturbed by this disregard for fundamental humanitarian protections and U.S. asylum law,” El Paso Catholic DioceseBishop Mark J. Seitz said in a statement.

Speaking as chairman of the Committee on Migration for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Seitz also called for bipartisan immigration reform and urged Biden to “reverse course.”

“There is a crisis of conscience at the U.S.-Mexico border. When vulnerable families seeking safety and the means for a dignified life are labeled ‘invaders’ or ‘illegals,’ terms that mask their humanity, we have strayed from the path of righteousness, succumbed to our fear of the ‘other,’ and forsaken the values upon which our nation was founded,” he stated.

Marisa Limón Garza, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, also issued a statement strongly opposing the measure.

“Today’s decision clearly illustrates that this administration is ignoring lessons from the failed deterrence measures put in place by its predecessors,” she said in the statement. “Being strong on immigration doesn’t require an assault on asylum seekers or cruelty toward people seeking protection at our southern border.”

Limón Garza said the policy represents a “concerning trend of political manipulation and irresponsible immigration practices. This does nothing to mitigate the violence and family separations, ignores due process, and moves us away from a humane, safe, and orderly system, inevitably forcing migrants into the hands of cartels and traffickers.”

Others expressed support for the action and called for more to be done.

The El Paso Chamber in a statement said it supports the executive action, stating it will lead to fewer disruptions at the ports of entry that have negatively impacted businesses in past years.

“President Biden’s executive actions, while crucial, serve only as an interim measure, highlighting the pressing need for comprehensive bipartisan reforms to secure the Southern border and address the broader immigration challenges facing the nation,” the Chamber said.
The Chamber called on citizens and policymakers to push for bipartisan immigration reform, including extending work permits for long-term immigrants.

“We are at a crossroads where our actions can profoundly influence our economic future,” the Chamber said. “This is why urging President Biden to expand work authorization and parole for immigrants. … The call for reform is not just a moral imperative; it’s an economic necessity.”

Migrant encounters decrease across the Southwest border

From January to April this year, about 531, 220 migrant encounters were reported along the Southwest border – down nearly 13% over the same time in 2023. In the El Paso Sector – which encompasses El Paso County and all of New Mexico – some 102,170 encounters were reported through April. That’s a decrease of about 30% over the same time the previous year.

Biden issues executive order further restricting asylum (3)

Much of the drop in encounters can be attributed to increased migrant crackdowns in Mexico, which deployed military forces, National Guard troops and National Migration Institute personnel to set up checkpoints on main roads, increase patrols in high-transit areas and pull people off northbound freight trains, WOLA reports. Mexico also increased charter flights and buses to transport migrants away from northern regions of the country.

Apprehensions in Mexico climbed to more than 782,000 in 2023, with some 481,000 apprehensions reported from January to April this year, data from Mexican Migration Policy cited in the WOLA study shows.

Mexico announced cap agreement in May

The Biden administration’s executive order comes just weeks after the government of Mexico announced a preliminary agreement between the two countries limiting at 4,000 the number of migrants who cross the border irregularly daily, the news organization La Verdad in Ciudad Juárez reported.

The agreement was discussed during a presentation of the Mexican Model of Human Mobility — a strategy by several Mexican governmental institutions to address migration challenges in that country.

In March, Mexico’s National Migration Institute, or INM, reactivated migrant raids in Ciudad Juárez and other regions of the state of Chihuahua to stop the flow of migrants.That came one year after a fire at a migrant detention center in Juárez killed 40 men and injured 27 others who were being held there – many following citywide raids that overcrowded the center with few safety measures and turned it into a death trap.

El Paso Matters audience engagement reporter Brandy Ruiz contributed to this report.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Biden issues executive order further restricting asylum (2024)


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