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Border & Immigration

Local, state leaders respond to Biden asylum order

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he is allowing United States immigration officials to deport migrants without processing asylum claims once a certain cap has been reached.

Biden's executive order shuts down processing of asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border once the average number of daily requests reaches 2,500.

Processing would reopen once the average number drops below 1,500. The number hasn't gone below 1,500 since July 2020, according to the Associated Press.

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In announcing his order, the president used the opportunity to attempt to draw differences between himself and his opponent this November, Donald Trump.

"I will never demonize immigrants. I'll never refer to immigrants as poisoning the blood of a country. Further, I've never separated children from their families at the border," he said.

The executive action goes into effect at midnight.

The announcement received mixed reviews — from Democrats decrying a return to what they call Trump-era policies to Republicans believing Biden isn't going far enough to address border security.

Local Republicans criticized Biden’s executive order before it was even published Tuesday. County Supervisor Jim Desmond issued a statement saying, “We need urgent, comprehensive action, not more political theater.”

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Local Democrats, including San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, said Biden was walking a line necessitated by stonewalling in Congress.

In an interview with KPBS, Rep. Mike Levin (D-49), voiced a similar sentiment.

“In the absence of congressional action I think the president was really left with very little choice here," he said. "The situation at the border today is untenable.”

California Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat and chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, was less than bullish on the executive order.

"By reviving Trump's asylum ban, President Biden has undermined American values and abandoned our nation's obligations to provide people fleeing persecution, violence, and authoritarianism with an opportunity to seek refuge in the U.S.," Padilla said.

"This asylum ban will fail to address the challenges at our border, just as it did under the Trump administration. It will lead to people with legitimate asylum claims being prevented from seeking safety and returned to harm."

Advocates said they felt, "deeply disappointed" with the executive action; arguing that using Trump-era border policies contradicts promises Biden made during the 2020 campaign.

"The Biden administration promised to restore asylum and has moved completely the opposite direction," said Margaret Cargoli, the directing attorney of policy and advocacy for the Immigrant Defenders Law Center.

Placing an arbitrary limit on the number of migrants who can seek asylum ignores the fact that asylum seekers are often face imminent danger in their home country or in Mexico, she added.

"We cannot place numerical limitations on someone's safety," Cargoli said.

The ACLU announced plans to challenge the order in court shortly after it was announced Tuesday.

The Biden administration hopes that restricting access to asylum to migrants who cross the border illegally will encourage them to seek legal pathways into the country, according to Levin.

"We need to make sure that using the asylum process established by CBP (Customs and Border Protection), the application, becomes the preferred path," he said.

The application refers to CBP One, a mobile app that allows up to 1,400 asylum seekers a day to schedule appointments for them to enter the country through a legal port of entry.

Critics of CBP One claim the application is not realistic for vulnerable migrants fleeing dangerous situations back home. The app is currently available in only English, Spanish and Haitian Creole. Migrants who are not tech savvy or have access to smartphones are unable to secure appointments.

In Tijuana, migrants wait between 4 to 6 month to secure CBP One appointments.

"Those are extremely valid concerns," Levin said. He added that he will continue to hold CBP to a high standard to ensure that app is "actually working as advertised."