Biden Signs Asylum Ban at U.S.-Mexico Border

President Biden has passed a controversial order banning asylum seekers in an effort to "gain control" of the border

Mexico Border Asylum seeker

A migrant woman from Mexico talks with a Border Patrol agent before being transported in a van to be processed for asylum, Wednesday, June 5, 2024, near Dulzura, Calif. President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled plans to enact immediate significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border as the White House tries to neutralize immigration as a political liability ahead of the November elections. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Immigration in the U.S. continues to be one of the most controversial political issues. Under former President Donald Trump’s administration, there were attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was later reinstated by a federal judge. Since taking office, President Biden has made several moves in favor of immigration including enacting the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, preserving the DACA program, and revoking former President Trump’s policy regarding mass deportations. However, he has also continued construction on the border wall that began under Trump. Most recently, he announced this week that he had signed an executive order to stop processing asylum claims when unauthorized crossings exceed an average of 2,500 migrants for seven consecutive days, meaning that the U.S.-Mexico border will be effectively shut down for all asylum seekers. Exemptions include unaccompanied children and victims of severe forms of trafficking, among others.

The order was announced on Tuesday, June 4 and went into effect the next day and is already facing criticism from both the Democratic and Republican parties. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced its plans to sue the Biden administration, which also sued President Trump for similar policies, according to Al Jazeera.

“We successfully sued President Trump – that’s the case that I argued a few years ago, we said that that was illegal when he tried an asylum ban that we think is very similar to the one that President Biden is doing. We think it remains illegal. And so we will challenge that in court,” ACLU’s deputy director Lee Gelernt told CNN.

Asylum is protected under international law in order to allow those fleeing war, persecution, and human rights violations to seek refuge in another country. In the U.S., migrants are automatically granted due process to seek asylum if they are fleeing persecution of any kind, regardless if they attempted to cross the border or went through a legally recognized pathway.

However, under this new order, there is now a cap on the number of asylum seekers that can enter through the U.S.-Mexico border until the number of border crossings decreases to 1,500 per day over the course of a week, which has not happened since January 2021. When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determines that number, normal processing of asylum seekers will resume.

“We must face the simple truth,” Biden said at the White House on Tuesday. “To protect America as a land that welcomes immigrants, you must first secure the border and secure it now.”

The order relies on Section 212(f) of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the president to effectively restrict immigration of this kind if they can prove that their entry into the country would be harmful or dangerous to its interests. It was used by President Trump to pass many of his anti-immigration policies including the “Muslim Ban” and a 2018 policy that similarly banned asylum seekers from crossing the border, which was later revoked in federal court. Not only may this new order from President Biden deny asylum to those who need it, but it could also cause migrants and asylum seekers to put themselves in more danger to find routes that will avoid border authorities. There have already been reports of migrants dying from heat stroke and dehydration in the desert, thanks to rising summer temperatures that have gone as high as 107 degrees. Authorities in Tijuana inquired about what would happen to the asylum seekers as shelters in the border town would potentially get overcrowded. A local official told BBC that “We’d start seeing people on the streets, sleeping in tents”.

“It’s unfortunate that politics are driving the immigration conversation in an increasingly restrictive direction,” Jennie Murray, president and the CEO of the National Immigration Forum, told BBC. “While there’s no question the U.S. needs to better address challenges at the border, the use of 212(f) authority is concerning.”

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