Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Biden order bars asylum claims at Mexico border during migrant surges

United States President Joe Biden issued an executive order Tuesday that prevents migrants from making asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border at times when crossings between legal ports of entry surge.

The New York Times described the order as “the most restrictive border policy instituted by Mr. Biden, or any other modern Democrat.”

The New York Times said that Biden’s executive order barring asylum claims at Mexico’s border with the U.S. is an attempt to address voters’ concerns in an election year. (White House)

The newspaper also said that the order “echoes an effort in 2018 by President Donald J. Trump to cut off migration that was blocked in federal court” and is “a dramatic election-year move to ease pressure on the immigration system and address a major concern among voters.”

Outlined in a White House “fact sheet,” the new restrictions take effect when the seven-day average for migrant crossings into the United States between ports of entry reaches 2,500. Numbers are measured by so-called “encounters” between migrants and U.S. authorities.

The Times reported that daily totals already exceed 2,500, meaning that Biden’s executive order could take effect immediately. U.S. border officers would thus be able to send migrants back to Mexico or to their countries of origin within hours or days without the chance to apply for asylum, even if a migrant believes they have a worthy claim.

In order for U.S. authorities to reopen the border to asylum seekers, migrant crossings between ports of entry would need to remain below a daily average of 1,500 for seven consecutive days. The border with Mexico would reopen to migrants two weeks after that, the Times said.

The White House fact sheet said that the Biden administration’s actions “will make it easier for immigration officers to remove those without a lawful basis to remain and reduce the burden on our Border Patrol agents.”

“But we must be clear,” the statement added. “This cannot achieve the same results as Congressional action, and it does not provide the critical personnel and funding needed to further secure our southern border. Congress still must act.”

A boy about eight or nine years old from a migrant caravan in Mexico plays on the outside of a parked train car.
A young boy plays on a train bound for Mexico City in Tlaxcala on May 25. Part of the Viacrucis Migrante, a migrant caravan that travels en masse through Mexico toward the U.S. to highlight the dangers migrants face, the boy and his group were hoping to board the cargo train. (Alain Hernández/Cuartoscuro)

The number of migrants arriving at the Mexico-United States border has risen greatly during the presidential terms of Biden in the United States and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico.

U.S Customs and Border Protection encountered a record high of almost 2.5 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2023, which ended in September.

Migrants typically enter Mexico at the country’s southern border with Guatemala before making the long, arduous and dangerous journey to the northern border on buses, atop trains, in tractor trailers and on foot. Mexican authorities detain and deport significant numbers of migrants, but many others make it to the northern border before attempting to make asylum claims in the United States or cross into the U.S. illegally.

Fleeing crime, poverty and political oppression, migrants come from Central American countries, from Caribbean nations such as Haiti and Cuba, from South America and even from Asia and Africa.

AMLO to speak to Biden about the new immigration policy

President López Obrador said Tuesday that he would “probably” speak to Biden on Tuesday about the U.S. government’s new immigration actions.

“We have a telephone call with President Biden pending; [it will] probably [be] today,” he said.

López Obrador said that Biden’s new policy didn’t amount to a closure of the Mexico-U.S. border, asserting that couldn’t happen even if U.S. authorities wanted to close it.

The two countries are each other’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade of almost US $800 billion in 2023.

“There could be [new] deportation measures, that have always existed, but border closures, no,” López Obrador said.

Mexican and U.S. officials have held numerous migration-focused meetings in recent years, and AMLO said Tuesday that the two countries have made progress on the issue. He has long urged the United States to increase funding for development programs that address the root causes of migration in the region. For its part, the U.S. has pressured Mexico to do more to stop the flow of migrants to its northern border.

President Joe Biden and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador
President López Obrador receives President Biden at the North American Leaders Summit in January 2023. López Obrador said on Tuesday that the U.S. should fund more programs in migrant source countries to provide migrants with incentives to stay home. (López Obrador/X)

“On the migration issue we have made good progress,” López Obrador said Tuesday, adding that both the Mexican and U.S. governments are committed to maintaining “a relation of respect for our sovereignties.”

However, he once again railed against the lack of U.S. funding aimed at reducing the number of migrants in major source countries from coming to the U.S. border with Mexico with asylum claims.

“It’s not possible that they approve 50, 60, 100 billion dollars for wars and absolutely nothing is approved in the [U.S.] Congress to support the people of Central America, Latin America and the Caribbean, who are the people who have to opt for migration out of necessity,” López Obrador said.

“I’m sure that if this was proposed to the citizens of the United States, they would accept,” he added.

Biden’s order set to be challenged in court 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a New York-based human rights organization, said on the X social media platform that it would launch a legal challenge to the U.S. president’s new executive order.

“The Biden administration just announced an executive order that will severely restrict people’s legal right to seek asylum, putting tens of thousands of lives at risk,” the ACLU said.

“This action takes the same approach as the Trump administration’s asylum ban. We will be challenging this order in court,” it added.

Lee Gelernt, an ACLU lawyer, said that the Biden administration “has left us little choice but to sue.”

The policy restricting asylum claims “was unlawful under Trump and is no less illegal now,” he said.

Major Republican politicians in the U.S., though in favor of stricter immigration policies, dismissed the executive order as an effort to garner votes. “If he was concerned about the border, he would have done this a long time ago,” said Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson. (U.S. House of Representatives)

The Times noted there would be “limited exceptions” to the new restrictions on asylum seeking at the Mexico border, “including for minors who cross the border alone, victims of human trafficking and those who use a Customs and Border Protection app to schedule an appointment with a border officer to request asylum.”

However, “for the most part,” the Times added, “the order suspends longtime guarantees that give anyone who steps onto U.S. soil the right to seek a safe haven.”

Top Republicans respond to Biden’s plan

Mike Johnson, speaker of the United States House of Representatives, said that Biden’s executive order was “window dressing.”

“Everybody knows it. … If he was concerned about the border, he would have done this a long time ago,” said Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana.

He also said that “from what we’re hearing,” the order “will ignore multiple elements that have to be addressed.”

Johnson’s office called the new immigration policy an “election-year border charade.”

Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party’s leader in the U.S. Senate, said that due to the large number of migrants crossing into the U.S. at its southern border, Biden’s new policy was “like turning a garden hose on a five-alarm fire.”

“And the American people are not fools. They know that this play is too little, too late,” McConnell said.

With reports from The New York Times, CNN en Español, La Jornada, AP and The Guardian

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