Biden Set to Sign Executive Order to Halt Asylum Requests at U.S.-Mexico Border

President Joe Biden is preparing to sign an executive order that would halt asylum requests at the U.S.-Mexico border once the average number of daily encounters exceeds 2,500, reopening only when that number drops to 1,500, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

The 2,500 threshold means the executive order could take effect immediately, as current daily encounter figures are above this mark. As reported by AP News

Biden is expected to announce the order, his most assertive unilateral action to manage border numbers, at a White House event on Tuesday with invited border mayors.

Five sources confirmed the 2,500 figure, and two confirmed the 1,500 threshold. These numbers are based on daily averages over a week. All sources requested anonymity to discuss the non-public executive order.

While other border activities, such as trade, are expected to continue, reaching the 1,500 threshold for reopening asylum requests might be challenging. The last time the daily average was this low was in July 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and Legislative Affairs Director Shuwanza Goff, have briefed lawmakers about the planned order. However, questions remain about its implementation, especially regarding cooperation from Mexican officials. according to Yahoo

Biden has been considering this move for months after bipartisan legislation to tighten asylum processes at the border fell apart due to Republican defections urged by former President Donald Trump. Despite a decline in illegal crossings, partly due to increased efforts by Mexico, Biden persisted with the executive action.

The announcement follows Mexico’s recent presidential election, where Claudia Sheinbaum became the nation’s first female leader. Biden spoke with Sheinbaum on Monday but did not disclose if they discussed the pending order.

“We continue to look at all options on the table,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday evening.

The executive order allows Biden to assert his authority following Congress’s failure to pass stricter border and asylum measures. It aims to prevent a potential surge in border encounters before the November elections.

The order incorporates policies from the failed bipartisan Senate deal, such as limiting asylum requests after a certain number of encounters. The administration wants migrants to seek asylum at ports of entry using the CBP One app, which schedules about 1,450 appointments daily.

Administration lawyers plan to use Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, granting the president broad authority to block entry of certain immigrants if deemed “detrimental” to national interests. Trump used the same provision for his toughest migration policies, prompting advocacy groups to prepare for legal challenges.

“We will need to review the (executive order) before making final litigation decisions,” said Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union. “But a policy that effectively shuts down asylum would raise clear legal problems, just as (it) did when the Trump administration tried to end asylum.” the Washington Times

The White House is likely to face resistance from Democratic lawmakers. Sen. Alex Padilla of California criticized the executive order as an incomplete strategy, advocating for an approach addressing the root causes of migration in Latin America.

Padilla, briefed on the proposal, has pressed the White House for actions benefiting immigrants, receiving assurances that efforts are underway.

Biden will unveil the executive order alongside several border mayors. Texas Mayors John Cowen of Brownsville and Ramiro Garza of Edinburg confirmed their invitations, while San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria could not attend due to scheduling conflicts.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat briefed on the plan, emphasized the importance of Mexican cooperation for the order’s success.

“If you think about the logistics, where else can they go?” Cuellar said. “If they’re not going to let them in, where do they go? Do they return them (to Mexico), or do they try to deport as many as they can?”

Jennifer Babaie of the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso expressed alarm at the prospect of formal deportation orders without asylum opportunities. Advocates fear Biden might attempt this under the 212(f) provision.

Pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions allowed migrants to try again without legal repercussions, Babaie noted. A formal deportation order would expose them to felony prosecution for reentry attempts and bar future legal entry.