News Release

Biden’s Executive Order on Asylum Seekers

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President Biden’s new executive order on immigration places limits on border crossings at the southern border to 2,500 over a seven-day period––17,500 in a week. 

ERNESTO CASTAÑEDA; ernesto@american.edu
    Castañeda is director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, the Immigration Lab, and the Masters in Sociology, Research, and Practice at American University in Washington, D.C. 

Castañeda told the Institute for Public Accuracy that there had been “indications that an announcement like this would be made. But those initial indications were that the cap over the number of daily arrivals at the border would be higher.

“The current numbers [of border crossings] are much lower than in 2023, but still higher than 2,500 daily. These new quotas exclude various groups, including people who arrive with previously-scheduled appointments made with CBPOne App, the app used by Customs and Border Patrol. People from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Venezuela also have a special [Temporary Protected Status] program for them. In practice, [the new cap] also probably excludes people from Ukraine, people with young children, and unaccompanied minors. It is unclear who will be counting the entrances: Border Patrol––which tends to overcount people in Mexico––could manage lists and meter entrances like they have done in the past, or other parts of DHS, which might apply the exceptions to these numbers and thus report smaller numbers [of entrances].”

“This Executive Order establishes a negative practical precedent where a President tries to unilaterally limit the asylum-seeking process in a situation not related to public health concerns as indicated in Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations. It gives bipartisan appeal to Trump’s campaign threat of ending asylum in the U.S…. This executive order does not help Biden’s campaign to differentiate itself from Trump on migration and provide a contrast. ‘Agreeing’ with MAGA Republicans about border arrivals being a top issue helps Republican candidates––not Democrats. It also alienates votes with undocumented members or voters who are sympathetic with those in need of asylum because they are escaping war, armed conflict, religious or political persecution.

“This action will affect future asylum-seekers who are already on their way to the U.S. southern border and will not be able to come into the U.S. and ask for asylum.” The public tends to “equate asylum seekers and people trying to enter undetected through areas between ports of entry while they are less surveyed. Asylum seekers look for Border Patrol and other officials to be processed and start their legal process to request asylum. The government, therefore, knows who they are and where they are located. Some of them will be allowed in, others will be returned quickly or later deported to their countries, or asked to leave if they are refused asylum. Hopefully, they can find safety in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, or other countries in the region. 

“According to White House advisors and some pundits’ thinking, this move was supposed to silence the criticisms that Biden was ‘weak’ on immigration. The executive action limiting asylum-seekers was supposed to convince independent and conservative voters to vote for Biden. But the criticisms have not ended––nor will they. Even if some conservative voters in, for example, Montana, were happy with this partial ‘border closure,’ they would probably disagree with Biden on guns, abortion, taxes for billionaires, climate change, etc. Voters are not single-issue voters. Their values and stands on the ‘culture wars’ framed by Republicans and the media tend to combine in a similar menu election. Many of the people who are worried about immigration are worried about a hypothetical fear, may believe in the great replacement conspiracy theory, and may be worried about demographic changes in the short-term, forgetting how immigrants became integrated and acculturated with time. The move is also part of an ideology that sees Christian and white people as superior while those who are not white threaten the future of the U.S.”