‘A monstrosity’: Biden blasted over planned executive order on asylum

Migrant rights advocates decry Biden's upcoming executive order, likening it to Trump-era policies and raising significant legal and humanitarian concerns.

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Migrant rights advocates are expressing outrage over President Joe Biden’s proposed executive order to block asylum seekers, a move they claim echoes controversial Trump-era policies. On Tuesday, Biden is set to hold an event at the White House to unveil this long-feared order, which would halt asylum requests at the U.S.-Mexico border when the number of unlawful border crossings hits a certain threshold.

According to The Associated Press and various other media outlets, Biden’s order would shut down asylum requests once the number of daily encounters reaches 2,500 between ports of entry. The border would reopen once the number declines to 1,500, although officials cautioned that the final figures could still change. This plan has sparked significant backlash from advocates and legal experts who argue that it undermines the fundamental right to seek asylum.

The Democrat is expected to invoke Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a measure previously used by former President Donald Trump. Trump’s use of this section led to numerous legal challenges, and many expect similar disputes to arise with Biden’s proposed policy. “We will need to see the E.O. before making any litigation decisions,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Any policy that effectively ends asylum protection for people fleeing danger would raise significant legal problems, as it did when Trump tried to end asylum.”

In response to a social media account tracking “Biden’s Wins,” which welcomed the reported order, Gelernt’s ACLU colleague Gillian Branstetter was quick to disagree. “This is not a ‘win’—it’s a monstrosity. Asylum is a human right,” she stated. When challenged by a social media user who sarcastically suggested she would prefer Trump’s border policies, Branstetter stressed, “This is Trump’s border policy.”

Policy experts have echoed these sentiments, with Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, noting that the legal landscape remains unchanged. “The politics may have changed but the law hasn’t; Trump tried to invoke section 212(f) to block asylum at the border and was slapped down in court. Biden’s effort to do the same will also face immediate legal challenges,” he said. Reichlin-Melnick also referenced a policy brief from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which criticized the legality and effectiveness of Biden’s plans.

“The decision by this administration to criminalize migrants—many of whom are fleeing harm—is deeply disturbing and misguided,” said Sarah M. Rich, senior supervising attorney and interim senior policy counsel at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We have witnessed how such prosecutions can be weaponized to separate and traumatize immigrant families.” Rich further warned that prosecuting people seeking safety in the U.S. for immigration violations would lead to more Black and Brown people being incarcerated, affecting immigrant families and communities disproportionately. “We call on the Biden administration to instead adopt a humane and welcoming immigration framework that centers our values as a nation that welcomes immigrants,” she urged.

CNN reported that unaccompanied children would be exempt from the executive order—a provision that worries immigration advocates. They fear that such an exemption might encourage families to send children to the border alone. Save the Children U.S. emphasized the fundamental right to seek asylum, warning against the dangers of separating families and restricting their right to safety. “We’ve seen what happens when children and families are separated. We can’t let that happen again,” the organization declared.

On the political front, reactions are mixed. Congressman Henry Cuellar, a right-wing Texas Democrat facing bribery charges, praised the president’s pending policy. “I’ve been briefed on the pending executive order,” Cuellar said. “I certainly support it because I’ve been advocating for these measures for years. While the order is yet to be released, I am supportive of the details provided to me thus far.”

At least five Texas mayors have been invited to the White House for Tuesday’s event, according to CNN. The timing of the order is notable, coming just weeks before the first presidential debate of the 2024 cycle. It follows a recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security proposal to fast-track the rejection of certain asylum requests, a move condemned as a return to failed Trump-era policies.

This announcement also comes on the heels of the recent electoral victory of Mexico’s next president, leftist Claudia Sheinbaum, who received a congratulatory call from Biden on Monday. The Associated Press noted that the number of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border has declined in recent months, partly due to Mexico’s increased efforts to curb illegal migration.

Biden’s anticipated action arrives after the U.S. Senate again killed the bipartisan Border Act. While Republican senators blocked the legislation at Trump’s direction, the measure was also opposed by progressive lawmakers and advocates. Among the few Democrats who spoke out against the Border Act was Senator Alex Padilla of California. Praising his floor speech last month, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies said, “This bill offers no solutions for immigrants and refugees. No measures to actually address the humanitarian and operational challenges at the border. Just more cruelty and chaos.”

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