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Biden to sign executive order to close southern US border to asylum seekers Biden to sign executive order to close southern US border to asylum seekers

President’s sharp political U-turn aimed at stemming record surge and winning support on key voter concern

Biden to sign executive order to close southern US border to asylum seekers

Joe Biden will this week sign an executive order to temporarily close the southern US border to asylum seekers in a sharp political U-turn aimed at winning support on a key voter concern in a presidential election year.

The US president is expected to sign the order as early as Tuesday to seal the border with Mexico to migrants when numbers of asylum claimants rise above a daily threshold of 2,500.

Mayors of several US border cities are expected to be present in the White House for Biden’s announcement.

Biden’s move echoes a similar approach adopted by Donald Trump in 2018 when he was president and reverses his one-time philosophical opposition to his predecessor’s hostility to migrants. When he was a presidential candidate, Biden denounced Trump’s policy, saying it upended decades of US asylum law.

He has been forced to change course as the number of asylum seekers coming through the US-Mexico border has surged during his presidency, with opinion polls consistently showing immigration to be at or near the top of voters’ concerns, ahead of inflation and the economy.

An attempt by the White House to cobble together legislation tightening border restrictions by tying it to aid to Ukraine and Israel failed earlier this year after Republican lawmakers withdrew support, apparently at the urging of Trump, who did not want Biden to claim credit for resolving an issue he has attempted to make his own.

According to CBS, which broke the story, Biden’s executive order will enable US immigration officials to quickly deport migrants who enter the country illegally without processing their asylum claims.

Controversially, it will rely on a presidential authority known as 212 (f) which became infamous during Trump’s presidency because of its use to enforce certain immigration restrictions, including travel bans from Muslim countries.

Like Trump’s restrictions, Biden’s order is likely to face legal challenges.

Migration at the southern border surged to record numbers at the end of last year. But the order comes at a moment when the number of migrants crossing from Mexico is down in the past six months, a trend attributed to stronger enforcement on the part of the Mexican authorities but which is not expected to sustain itself.

An estimated 179,000 “border encounters” were recorded in April, according to US Customs and Border Protection figures, compared with a record high of 302,000 last December. More than 3,500 migrants were said to have crossed various points along the 2,000-mile border illegally on Sunday alone.

Biden initially rolled back Trump’s restrictive border policies after taking office in January 2021, issuing orders to freeze his predecessor’s border wall construction and reissuing protections set up under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) scheme originally adopted by the Barack Obama White House.

Biden suspended Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy – whereby asylum seekers were forced to wait in Mexico while their US immigration claims were being considered – on the first day of his administration before the homeland security department formally cancelled it months later. The US supreme court subsequently upheld Biden’s approach following a lower court ruling against it.

When Trump’s policy was in operation, Biden denounced it, saying: “This is the first president in the history of the United States of America [under whom] anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country. That’s never happened before.”

A recent Associated Press poll showed about two-thirds of voters, including 40% of Democrats, disapproved of Biden’s handling of the southern border.


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