Migrants attempt to cross the Rio Grande

Migrants attempt to cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on February 29, 2024.

(Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images)

'A Monstrosity': Biden Blasted Over Planned Executive Order on Asylum

"The decision by this administration to criminalize migrants—many of whom are fleeing harm—is deeply disturbing and misguided," said one critic.

Migrant rights advocates were outraged by Monday reporting that U.S. President Joe Biden plans to hold an event at the White House on Tuesday to unveil a long-feared executive order that would block people from seeking asylum when the number of unlawful border crossings hits a certain threshold.

Biden's order "would shut down asylum requests to the U.S.-Mexico border once the number of daily encounters hits 2,500 between ports of entry, with the border reopening once that number declines to 1,500," according toThe Associated Press—and various other media outlets that also cited unnamed officials who cautioned that the final figures could still change.

The Democrat is expected to invoke Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which was previously used by former President Donald Trump—the presumptive Republican nominee to face Biden in November—and sparked legal challenges.

"We will need to see the E.O. before making any litigation decisions," Lee Gelernt, an attorney who serves as deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, toldAxios of Biden's expected move. "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 said: "This is not a 'win'—it's a monstrosity. Asylum is a human right."

After one social media user sarcastically told Branstetter, "I'm sure you'll love Trump's border policies," she stressed, "This is Trump's border policy."

American Immigration Council policy director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick similarly said that "the politics may have changed by 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."

Reichlin-Melnick also highlighted a policy brief that the American Immigration Lawyers Association released in response to the reports, which takes aim at both the legality and effectiveness of the Biden administration's supposed 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, in a statement. "We have witnessed how such prosecutions can be weaponized to separate and traumatize immigrant families."

"Prosecuting people seeking safety in the U.S. for these immigration violations will lead to more Black and Brown people being incarcerated at the expense of immigrant families and communities," Rich continued. "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."

CNNreported that "unaccompanied children would be exempt—a key piece of the executive order that would worry immigration advocates who have said such an exemption could encourage some families to send children to the border on their own."

Save the Children U.S. declared that "seeking asylum is a basic human right. We've seen what happens when children and families are separated and their right to safety is restricted. We can't let that happen again."

Meanwhile, Congressman Henry Cuellar, a right-wing Texas Democrat who has criticized Biden for not increasing border enforcement and is currently battling bribery charges, praised the president's pending policy.

"I've been briefed on the pending executive order," said Cuellar. "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 the Tuesday event, according to CNN. Plans for the order come a few weeks before the first presidential debate of the 2024 cycle and follow the proposal last month of U.S. Department of Homeland Security rule to fast-track the rejection of certain asylum requests, which was condemned as a "return to failed Trump-era policies."

The reporting also follows the Sunday electoral victory of the next Mexican president, leftist Claudia Sheinbaum—who on Monday received a congratulatory call from Biden. The AP noted that "the number of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border has declined for months, partly because of a stepped-up effort by Mexico."

Biden's anticipated action would also come after the U.S. Senate again killed the bipartisan Border Act. While Republican senators blocked the legislation at the direction of Trump, who wants to continue campaigning for president on immigration policy, the measure was also opposed by progressive lawmakers and advocates.

Among the few Democrats who spoke out against the Border Act was Sen. Alex Padilla of California. Praising his floor speech last month, the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies said that "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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