Biden set to unveil order restricting asylum at US-Mexico border

Order will allow US to shut off asylum requests and deny entry to migrants once daily threshold is met, US media reports.

An asylum seeker expelled from the US holds onto a fence at the border with Mexico
A Venezuelan migrant, expelled from the US and sent back to Mexico, holds on to the fence of the National Institute of Migration building in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in 2023 [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order this week that would place new restrictions on the ability of asylum seekers to seek protection at the United States-Mexico border, drawing criticism from rights advocates.

Citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter, US news outlets reported on Monday that the order will allow the Biden administration to shut off asylum requests and automatically deny entry to migrants once a daily threshold is met.

Biden is expected to make the announcement on Tuesday.

The move comes as the Democratic leader continues what experts have dubbed a rightward lurch on immigration amid political pressure from Republicans in the lead-up to November’s presidential election.

Biden is set to face off in the race against his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who pursued a hardline, anti-immigration stance while in the White House.

“From day one, the administration has always evaluated what actions could be taken,” a White House official told the AFP news agency, without confirming the reports.

“There haven’t been any final decisions regarding what additional executive actions, if any, could be taken,” the official added.

Citing three people briefed on the plan, CBS News reported on Monday that Biden’s executive order will allow US officials to immediately turn back asylum seekers who enter the country without permits once daily crossings hit a certain number.

It is unclear what that threshold will be, but CNN and ABC News said the order would be applied each day that 2,500 unauthorised border crossings are registered.

US officials are currently making just under 4,000 apprehensions at the border daily, CNN reported, citing an official with the US Department of Homeland Security.

The US media outlets also said Biden’s order would rely on Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a presidential authority used by Trump to enact some of his most contentious immigration policies.

That includes the so-called “Muslim ban”, which saw the Trump administration bar entry into the US to citizens of several Muslim-majority countries.

Republican lawmakers have slammed Biden on immigration since the Democratic president came into office in early 2021, blaming him for a surge in arrivals last year.

While Biden has enacted border restrictions of his own and the number of unauthorised crossings has dropped in recent months, the Republican Party continues to zero in on the issue ahead of what is expected to be a tight November election.

Asked in an interview with FOX News about Biden’s expected executive order, Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, said, “It’s too little, too late.”

Meanwhile, members of Biden’s own Democratic Party, as well as human rights groups, have condemned the administration for enacting more restrictions at the border.

“We are alarmed that the administration seems to be reacting to political pressures rather than implementing solutions that address the real challenges at the border,” Mark Hetfield, CEO and president of migration and refugee rights group HIAS, said in a statement last month.

“The further degradation of protections and due process in the asylum system will undoubtedly lead to the US government returning individuals to territories where they face violence and harm.”

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, an Arizona-based legal aid non-profit, also said on social media last week that the executive order would have dire consequences.

“An expulsion power like this will bar people fleeing grave harm from even asking for asylum in the US, force them to wait in dangerous conditions, and exacerbate many of the current challenges we’re facing at the border,” the group said.

“People arriving at the border have the right to begin the asylum process — regardless of where they’re from, how they arrived, or how many people have arrived before them.”

Source: Al Jazeera