Migrants, including children, cross the Rio Grande to surrender to U.S. authorities on March 7, 2024.

(Photo: David Peinado/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Taking Page From 'Trump Playbook,' Biden Weighs Order to Bar Asylum-Seekers

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal said she was "extremely disappointed to see the president discussing plans to use executive authority to 'shut down the border' and limit the ability of people to seek asylum."

U.S. President Joe Biden said in an interview aired Tuesday by a Spanish-language broadcaster that he's considering executive action to severely restrict the number of asylum-seekers allowed to enter the country—potentially using authority that former President Donald Trump invoked repeatedly during his assault on the immigration system.

Speaking to Univision's Enrique Acevedo, Biden said his administration is "examining whether or not" he has the power to effectively shut down the southern border without approval from Congress.

"Some are suggesting that I should just go ahead and try it," said the president, who is running for reelection against Trump in November. "And if I get shut down by the court, I get shut down by the court."

Axiosreported Wednesday that "while it's not final, such an executive order is likely by the end of April."

"The provision Biden is eyeing would restrict the ability of immigrants to claim asylum, and doesn't require congressional approval," the outlet noted. "Biden would use authority in Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives the president broad leeway to block entry of certain immigrants if it would be 'detrimental' to U.S. national interests."

Eleanor Acer, refugee protection director at Human Rights First, warned in response to the new reporting that any attempt "to use 212(f) to override U.S. and international refugee law would be a legal and political mistake."

"It would also trigger its own disorder and wouldn't fix border challenges," Acer argued. "Proceeding with unlawful policies and waiting for courts to shut them down was [a] core Trump playbook."

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director of the American Immigration Council, noted that Trump's ploy to use Section 212(f) to shutter the U.S.-Mexico border was struck down in court "within days."

"Democrats cannot continue to take pages out of Donald Trump and Stephen Miller's playbook."

Biden has repeatedly faced backlash from humanitarian groups for resorting to Trump-style attacks on asylum rights in an apparent effort to assuage cynical Republican critics who claim he's manufactured a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees spoke out earlier this year against the Biden administration's attempts to curtail asylum rights, calling them out of line with "refugee law standards."

In February, congressional Republicans tanked a Biden-backed immigration package that rights advocates and progressive lawmakers condemned as draconian. GOP lawmakers insisted it didn't go far enough, parroting Trump—who is planning the "largest domestic deportation operation in American history" if he wins another term in November.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement Wednesday that she was "extremely disappointed to see the president discussing plans to use executive authority to 'shut down the border' and limit the ability of people to seek asylum in the United States."

"Democrats cannot continue to take pages out of Donald Trump and [former White House adviser] Stephen Miller's playbook—we need to lead with dignity and humanity," said Jayapal. "Thirty years of data shows that enforcement-only approaches do not work."

"It is our duty as elected officials to change and shape the conversation and not just buy into the same failed and tired policies of the past," she continued. "President Biden has the ability to do this and reject the xenophobic racist conversation that Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans want to put forward. As someone who came to this country alone at 16, who has worked to advance immigrant rights for over 20 years, I know we must lead with the vision of an America that welcomes immigrants and establishes a safe and orderly immigration system."

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