Joe Biden speaks at the presidential podium next to a sign reading "Securing Our Border"

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on an executive order limiting asylum in the East Room of the White House on June 4, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

ACLU Plans Lawsuit Over Biden's Trumpian Attack on Asylum Rights

"It was illegal when Trump did it, and it is no less illegal now."

The ACLU on Tuesday vowed to launch a legal challenge to U.S. President Joe Biden's executive order barring migrants who cross the southern border without authorization from receiving asylum.

Biden's executive action invokes Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act—previously used by the administration of former Republican President Donald Trump to deny migrants asylum—"when the southern border is overwhelmed."

Under the policy, asylum requests will be shut down when the average number of daily migrant encounters between ports of entry hits 2,500. Border entry points would reopen to asylum-seekers when that number dips below 1,500.

The president said he was acting, in part, because "Republicans in Congress chose to put partisan politics ahead of our national security, twice voting against the toughest and fairest set of reforms in decades."

On Tuesday, the ACLU said Biden's policy will "rush vulnerable people through already fast-tracked deportation proceedings, sending people in need of protection to their deaths."

"We intend to challenge this order in court," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, said in a statement. "It was illegal when Trump did it, and it is no less illegal now."

In July 2020 a federal judge in Washington, D.C. struck down the Trump administration's ban on most Central Americans and migrants from other countries.

ACLU chief political and advocacy officer Deirdre Schifeling said that "we need solutions to address the challenges at the border, but the administration's planned executive actions will put thousands of lives at risk."

"They will not meet the needs at the border, nor will they fix our broken immigration system," Schifeling added. "We urge the administration to uphold its campaign promise to restore asylum and mobilize the necessary resources to address the challenges at the border. It's not just the morally sound thing to do—it's good politics."

The ACLU pointed to polling showing that "voters nationwide and in battleground states largely reject enforcement-only policies that put vulnerable people in danger."

The group is advocating "balanced and humane solutions" including "improving processing at ports of entry and addressing the immigration case backlog by investing in immigration court judges and legal representation."

This isn't the first time that Biden's immigration policies have been likened to those of Trump, who is the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee despite having recently been convicted on 34 felony counts and facing 54 other federal and state charges across three cases.

One year ago, critics accused Biden of "finishing Trump's job" by implementing a crackdown on asylum-seekers upon the expiration of Title 42—a provision first invoked during the previous administration at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and continued by Biden to expel more than 1 million migrants under the pretext of public health.

The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders—which has deployed aid teams along migration routes—warned Tuesday that Biden's new order will put vulnerable people who endure treacherous, sometimes deadly, risks trying to reach the United States "at even greater risk."

"In signing this executive order, President Biden has betrayed his promise to build a fair, safe, and humane immigration system," Doctors Without Borders USA CEO Avril Benoît said in a statement. "This order is not only counter to U.S. law and international law, it puts people's lives and health at risk."

"Today's decision will trap vulnerable people, including young families, in insecure cities in Mexico and put them in grave danger," Benoît added. "The Biden administration continues to prioritize optics and political expediency at the expense of thousands of people who are attempting to exercise their legal right to seek asylum."

Kica Matos, president of the National Immigration Law Center and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund, said Tuesday that "President Biden's craven embrace of failed Republican policies is a mistake that will only lead to more harm and dysfunction at the U.S.-Mexico border."

"There is a better way," she stressed. "Rather than playing politics with people's lives, the president should pursue practical solutions that increase our capacity to welcome immigrants humanely. These solutions include timely and fair processing of asylum applications, expanding legal pathways, and supporting cities that are welcoming our new neighbors."

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