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Biden plans to send migrants back to Mexico when illegal crossings exceed limit

President Biden plans to issue an order Tuesday that would close access to the U.S. asylum system when illegal border crossings exceed a daily threshold, according to four administration officials and people familiar with the plan.

Migrants would be sent back to Mexico and would no longer be eligible for asylum once the limit is exceeded, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the pending order. the White House.

The move has been under consideration by the administration since this year’s failure of bipartisan border legislation, which would have adopted a similar trigger to block access to asylum seekers when U.S. authorities are overwhelmed. People familiar with the plans said they expected the cap to be set at an average of 2,500 to 3,000 daily crossings.

Illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border have averaged more than 3,500 in recent weeks, according to the latest government data, so Biden’s order could have immediate effects.

During the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. authorities took advantage of a public health emergency to quickly “expel” migrants and turn away asylum seekers who arrived illegally. Officials said Biden’s expected order would work the same way, while agents at the border would continue to face limitations, including a lack of detention space, transportation capacity and security agents. ‘asylum.

The failed border legislation would have provided billions in additional funding for deportation capacity and asylum processing, but Republican lawmakers rejected the bill after former president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump opposed it.

Biden implemented measures last May to penalize the asylum claims of migrants who enter the United States illegally, but many are released into the United States because border authorities do not have the capacity to detain them and to filter them.

“The big question for me is whether this will come with additional resources,” said Kathleen Bush-Joseph, a lawyer and analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “Without additional funds to implement this, the same challenges will persist that each of the past asylum restrictions have faced. »

Migrants who say they fear persecution if returned to Mexico will remain eligible under the Convention Against Torture and other protections afforded under U.S. law, according to officials with knowledge of Biden’s order.

Mexico also imposes limits on the number of returns it accepts, and it is unclear whether Biden will announce an increased willingness by Mexican authorities to take back migrants from around the world in significant numbers.

The president finds himself in a political bind across the border as the issue becomes increasingly important to voters. The migratory wave during his mandate, which has had its ups and downs but has often exceeded record levels, remains one of his biggest political liabilities, according to strategists.

Trump has continually attacked him for what he described as “open borders” and “Biden’s migrant crime” policies, pledging a sweeping crackdown if he wins the presidency.

“Our borders will be closed very soon,” Trump said Friday, in remarks in which he denounced immigration and his 34 felony convictions for falsifying business records during the secret trial against him in New York.

Trump made a similar attempt to cut off migrants’ access to U.S. asylum protections, but the measures were blocked in federal court in 2019. Biden’s order is expected to be challenged on similar grounds.

“We will need to review the executive order before making litigation decisions, but any policy that would effectively end asylum would raise obvious legal issues, just as occurred when the Trump administration attempted to end to the asylum,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt. served as a senior adviser on many of the challenges to Trump’s policies, in an interview Monday.

U.S. authorities have documented about 2 million illegal crossings per year along the southern border since 2021, the highest levels on record, and migrants are arriving in record numbers from China, India, Venezuela and dozens of countries. ‘other countries. Often guided to the U.S. border by criminal organizations in Mexico, migrants typically surrender to U.S. border agents and express fear of persecution if returned — the first step in seeking asylum in the United States.

Biden’s order would block them if crossings exceed the daily threshold. Mexican authorities have long opposed the return of non-Mexicans by U.S. authorities, but the two countries have significantly increased cooperation on immigration control in recent years.

Current agreements allow the United States to send up to 30,000 non-Mexicans across the border each month, but Mexico has generally sought to limit returns of Central Americans and other Spanish-speaking migrants.

Mexican voters on Sunday elected Claudia Sheinbaum, the country’s first female leader, with an overwhelming majority, in a vote widely seen as a referendum on current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Sheinbaum, who will be inaugurated on October 1, pledged to continue López Obrador’s cooperation with the United States on migration.

As Biden increasingly adopts the type of language adopted by Trump on immigration — including pledging this year to “shut down” the border if it becomes overwhelmed by unauthorized crossings — he has struggled to find a message capable of satisfying the diverse coalition of voters he courts.

Several progressive lawmakers have criticized Biden for his increasingly tough stance on the border, and pro-immigration activists have accused him of betraying core American ideals by adopting more humane immigration policies after Trump’s turbulent tenure.

“This administration’s decision to criminalize migrants – many of whom are fleeing danger – is deeply troubling and wrong,” Sarah M. Rich, senior staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement.

“Prosecuting people seeking refuge in the United States for these immigration violations will result in the incarceration of more Black and Brown people at the expense of immigrant families and communities,” Rich said.

White House officials said Biden would continue to explore various policy options to address the migration challenge.

“While Republicans in Congress have chosen to oppose increased border enforcement, President Biden will not stop fighting to provide the resources border and immigration personnel need to secure our border,” he said. said Angelo Fernández Hernández, White House spokesperson, in a statement. .

The expected executive order is a signal that some Democrats’ plan to hammer Republicans over the failed bipartisan border deal that Trump opposed this year is unlikely to protect them from a barrage of attacks on the issue .

When the bill first failed in the Senate, Biden vowed to take the message to the entire country and blame Trump for encouraging lawmakers to scrap the deal.

While Biden initially pushed that message in his campaign speeches, his focus in recent months has shifted to figuring out how much he can accomplish without Congress.

White House officials have long said Biden cannot unilaterally provide the resources needed to secure the border, calling on Congress to pass funding and statutory changes that would create a more orderly migration system.

washingtonpost

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