Biden's Election Year
Border Order

The president's plan to address security at the Mexican border drew backlash both from immigration advocates and border hawks.


In April, Axios reported that President Joe Biden was planning "to issue an executive order to dramatically limit the number of asylum-seekers who can cross the southern border" in an attempt to "stem illegal border crossings." The Biden administration announced sweeping asylum restrictions in early June, but the move immediately drew backlash from both immigrant advocates and border hawks.

"The entry of any noncitizen into the United States across the southern border is hereby suspended and limited," said Biden's order. When border encounters between ports of entry hit a daily average of 2,500 over a seven-day period, migrants will be barred from seeking asylum unless they qualify for a narrow exception or request an appointment at a port of entry through an app (a glitchy and cumbersome process). Restrictions will lift 14 days after daily encounters between ports of entry fall below 1,500 per day on average over a seven-day period.

Border crossings have fallen recently, but it's been years since they were as low as Biden's order would demand for asylum processing to resume. And like many of Biden's actions on the border, the order has satisfied basically nobody.

The International Refugee Assistance Project called it and other restrictive measures "a remarkable capitulation by the Biden administration to xenophobic politicians who thrive on fear-mongering and scapegoating immigrant communities." Jennie Murray, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, said the action would be "only a Band-Aid without action from Congress." Several Democratic lawmakers expressed similar concerns, and the American Civil Liberties Union has sued Biden over the order.

Restrictionists, meanwhile, criticized Biden's intent and timing. "It's window dressing," said House Speaker Mike Johnson (R–La.) of the "weak" order. "Everybody knows that if he was concerned about the border, he would have done this a long time ago." Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) claimed the order "is about the Biden administration trying to give themselves political cover" before the presidential election. "The executive order will still allow thousands of illegal aliens to come across the border per day. That's absurd."

The order will have a very real and negative impact on migrants. Border measures like this push sufficiently desperate migrants into more remote, dangerous, and deadly crossing corridors—or, for those who choose to wait for restrictions to lift, into tent cities along the border where they may experience rape, torture, or kidnapping.

Biden has embraced some effective policies at the border, including sponsorship programs that let private citizens welcome refugees and other migrants. Those initiatives have been successful in reducing unauthorized migration among eligible nationalities. That's because they acknowledge a simple fact: Cracking down on migrants does nothing to address their demand for a safe immigration pathway and the opportunity to work.

The administration's asylum restrictions deny that fact and will have unintended consequences, likely contribute to border chaos, and—most certain of all—fail to make anyone happy.