Biden Closes Border to Asylum Seekers: Implementation of Order Remains Uncertain



The U.S. border with Mexico was closed to nearly all migrants seeking asylum as of Wednesday due to an executive order signed by President Biden. The order was intended to address a key issue in Biden’s campaign against former President Trump, but critics question whether it can be enforced effectively along the 2,000-mile border. The order’s impact won’t be clear for several weeks, and its enforcement could be hampered by the lack of additional resources due to Republicans blocking billions in funding.

US-Mexico Border Closure to Asylum Seekers due to Executive Order

Since Wednesday, nearly all asylum seekers are facing a closed U.S. border with Mexico, a result of an executive order by President Biden. The decision aims to keep the border closed until Election Day, mitigating one of the president’s major campaign vulnerabilities against former President Trump. However, uncertainty remains about the execution of the order along the 2,000-mile border with limited capacity to handle the influx of migrants.

Since Wednesday, the order seems effective, but it’s still early for a definitive assessment. Migrants in border towns Mexicali and Ciudad Juárez are being turned away, and information about the policy is being disseminated.

Impact of the New Restrictions on Asylum Seekers

In Mexicali, Guadalupe Olmos, a 33-year-old mother, expressed despair upon hearing about the new policy, saying it’s now hopeless to try entering the U.S. Previously, asylum seekers were able to surrender to border agents upon stepping on U.S. soil. They were often released into the U.S. to await their cases, sometimes for years. The new order by President Biden prevents that, despite numerous ways to cross the border from California to Texas, especially without additional resources to safeguard the frontier.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection office releases monthly crossing statistics, so it will take a few weeks to ascertain the effects of Biden’s directive. Nevertheless, the withheld billions in funding by Republicans, which would have helped enforce the order, raises doubts about its transformative potential amidst the global migration crisis.

Long-term Solutions and Challenges at the Border

John Sandweg, a top official at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, opined that Biden’s action doesn’t solve long-term issues at the border. Biden issued the executive action under immense political pressure after a bipartisan bill that would have also closed the border was thwarted by Republicans in February.

The main difference between the bill and Biden’s executive order is funding. Biden cannot allocate resources to the border through executive authority; he needs Congressional approval for that. Despite the stringent measures in the bill, former President Trump called on Republicans to reject it. Biden expressed his need to secure the border, blaming Republicans for forcing his hand.

Enforcement and Legal Challenges of the Executive Order

The order will need to be enforced without the proposed funding in the bill, which included over $7 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, $4 billion for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and over $6 billion for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The funding would have also covered more immigration judges to expedite the backlog of two million asylum cases.

The restrictions will only lift if the number of illegal crossings falls below 1,500 for seven consecutive days and remains as such for two weeks. With daily illegal crossings currently averaging about 3,000, the executive order could be in effect for possibly several months, assuming it withstands anticipated legal challenges.

Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America stated that the threshold set is unrealistically low for the current mass global migration. The policy change has already affected plans of asylum seekers like Ibeth María del Villar San Juan and her family from Venezuela. The family decided to stay in Mexico upon learning that illegal crossing could forfeit their asylum possibilities.

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