Biden issues executive order allowing temporary border closures

The directive allows the border to be closed to asylum seekers if the number of migrants attempting to cross each day exceeds 2,500 for one straight week.

By Rhonda Fanning & Shelly BrisbinJune 4, 2024 12:16 pm, ,

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order that would close the southern border if more than 2,500 people per day request asylum for a week straight. The border would then remain closed until the average number of asylum seekers drops to 1,500 per day.

The order could have massive ripple effects for people and politics in both the United States and Mexico.

Aileen Teague is an assistant professor of international affairs at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. She says the order brings the Biden administration’s border policy closer to that of former President Donald Trump. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Can you tell us some more details about what we know of what’s included in this executive order? 

Aileen Teague: Absolutely. Well, broadly speaking, the president [signed] an order letting him essentially seal the border with Mexico – temporarily closing the border. Not completely, I’d like to add. And kind of suspending these long time protections, for asylum seekers into the United States. 

We’ve seen a lot of chatter in the media, particularly from South Texas politicians that have been very much against the president’s lack of action at the border. And so with this executive order, what the president is expected to do is to sort of tap into his executive power specifically outlined in section 212(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which would give him a broader sense of authority to block the entry of certain immigrants into the United States.

And so this is kind of a bit of a U-turn from what we’ve seen with the Biden administration’s rhetoric on the border, which has been sort of counterposed to that of President Trump in the past. But we see these two politicians more and more coming together with this latest order passed by the Biden administration. 

Why is this happening right now, do you suppose? 

To be honest with you, there has been a very kind of active weekend in U.S.-Mexico relations, particularly on the Mexico side. I think that there’s a couple of things that are coming together.

First, we’ve had months, if not longer, of very unsatisfied politicians at the U.S.-Mexico border and border states, specifically Texas, that have been kind of enacting their local powers to restrict immigration coming in. At a broader sort of national level, we’ve been unable to come to a consensus with issues on immigration at the federal level in the United States. This comes also as Mexico just experienced a historic election on Sunday electing Claudia Sheinbaum to be their first female president.

And so I think that there’s a couple of things that are coming together. This is sort of the end of the high time of when these migrants are making their way north to the U.S.-Mexico border. So I think from the perspective of the Biden administration, as we are nearing November, also, I think that they want to indicate that they are willing to take a tougher stance on issues at the border in the way that they haven’t before.

I think it’s also important that the United States send a signal that the border is still at the top of its priorities and that they will be needing a counterpart in Mexico that is going to be working with them on actually reducing the numbers of these illegal crossings at the border. 

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Do you think this will create a new kind of game for folks who are trying to enter the U.S. from the southern border? Will it make things more difficult for those folks? 

I like the way you ask that question, because I think that not just in recent history, but ever since, I think border crossings have been a game for decades, since the earliest U.S. policies were enacted in the 1920s to restrict people coming through.

I think that we’re just seeing with the Trump, and now Biden era, we’re just seeing the game escalate to new levels. I think that what’s been very clear, from DHS and from other agencies, is that the asylum system is broken.

So at the core of this is a legal hurdle in that we have such partisan politics here in the United States that it has been very difficult to come up with comprehensive immigration reform that would kind of take some pressure off of the asylum system. And I think that this latest move from the Biden administration indicates that we need to try something else in the United States, because we’re not having enough space to revise our asylum system and to come up with more long-term solutions. 

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