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US President Biden imposes asylum ban on US-Mexico border

U.S. President Joe Biden implemented a comprehensive asylum ban targeting migrants who are caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. This significant enforcement action comes as Biden gears up for the November elections that will determine control of the White House.

Under the new policy, migrants caught crossing illegally may be swiftly deported or sent back to Mexico. The measure, set to take effect just after midnight, includes exceptions for unaccompanied children, individuals facing serious medical or safety threats, and victims of trafficking, as stated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Biden, a Democrat, has intensified his stance on border security as immigration becomes a pivotal issue for Americans ahead of the November 5 elections, where he will compete against Republican Donald Trump. Trump, known for his stringent immigration policies, has pledged a broad crackdown if reelected.

Since taking office in 2021, Biden has aimed to reverse several of Trump’s restrictive immigration policies but has faced challenges with record numbers of migrants crossing illegally, straining U.S. border authorities and cities receiving new arrivals.

At a White House press conference detailing the proclamation, Biden assured that asylum would remain accessible for migrants who schedule appointments using the CBP One app or utilize other legal pathways instead of crossing illegally.

“This action will help us gain control of our border and restore order to the process,” Biden stated. “This ban will remain in place until the number of people attempting to enter illegally is reduced to a manageable level.”

Despite introducing new restrictions, Biden criticized Trump’s controversial policies, including family separations at the border and inflammatory remarks about undocumented immigrants.

“I will never demonize immigrants,” Biden affirmed.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in mid-May shows that registered voters favor Trump over Biden on immigration policy by a 17 percentage point margin.

Questions Remain

The new asylum ban activates when the daily average of border arrests exceeds 2,500 over a week, a threshold currently being met, officials disclosed in a call with reporters on condition of anonymity. U.S. border arrests averaged 4,300 per day in April, according to the latest available statistics.

The ban will be suspended if arrests fall below an average of 1,500 per day for three consecutive weeks. The last time crossings dropped to this level was in July 2020 during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic when global travel was minimal.

Operational questions about the ban’s implementation remain unresolved, such as how the administration will promptly deport migrants from distant or non-cooperative countries and how many non-Mexican migrants Mexico will accept under the new policy.

The new restrictions mirror similar policies from the Trump era, employing a legal statute known as 212(f), which underpinned Trump’s travel bans targeting several majority-Muslim nations and other countries.

Critics from both political sides condemned the Biden ban on Tuesday. Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, announced intentions to sue over the new restrictions. Immigrant advocacy organizations have criticized Biden for adopting Trump-like policies and reneging on U.S. legal obligations to asylum seekers.

In anticipation of the announcement, Trump’s campaign issued a statement criticizing Biden for the high levels of illegal immigration and argued that exempting unaccompanied minors would encourage child trafficking. Republicans also labeled Biden’s actions as politically motivated and insufficient.

Inaction in Congress

Biden has been pushing for months to pass a Senate bill, crafted by a bipartisan group, aimed at enhancing border security. However, Republicans rejected it following opposition from Trump.

Over the past year, the Biden administration has taken several steps to toughen the asylum process, including a May 2023 regulation that increased the standards for an initial asylum claim.

The number of migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally has declined in recent months, a trend U.S. officials partially attribute to increased Mexican enforcement.

Claudia Sheinbaum’s election as Mexico’s first female president could add pressure regarding border crossings. Sheinbaum, who will assume office on October 1, is the successor to current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Biden acknowledged Lopez Obrador’s cooperation on immigration during a phone call on Tuesday, and Lopez Obrador noted that the two countries “have been making good progress” on the issue.

Enrique Lucero, director of migrant affairs in Tijuana, Mexico, warned that the new measures could overwhelm migrant shelters, with more people potentially ending up on the streets or becoming victims of traffickers.

“The question is where are all those people going to go?” Lucero asked. “Many will end up on the streets or prey to traffickers.”

In San Diego, California, across the border from Tijuana, a 31-year-old Colombian man named John shared his story of spending eight days and 20 million Colombian pesos ($5,200) to cross into the U.S. and seek asylum. His immigration court hearing is scheduled for April 25.

“It would have been very painful to have to start over, in debt,” John said. “People give up everything they have.”

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Written By

I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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