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Biden Hints He’ll Soon Issue Order to Restrict Asylum Seekers From Entering US

Critics have noted that such an order would echo the xenophobic policies of Donald Trump and would likely be illegal.

President Joe Biden looks at a presentation about immigration and border security at the Brownsville Station on February 29, 2024, in Olmito, Texas.

In a recent interview with Spanish-language cable network Univision that aired on Tuesday, President Joe Biden suggested that he would soon issue an executive order using the same authority former President Donald Trump used to enact racist immigration policies.

Lamenting that thousands of migrants are seeking asylum in the U.S. daily under current policy, Biden said during the interview that he would use his authority as laid out in Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to limit the number of migrants who can enter the country. Under that statute, presidents are allowed to block certain people from immigrating if they’re deemed “detrimental” by the chief executive to U.S. interests.

According to reporting from Axios, the action Biden is considering would be “Trump-like,” and could come as soon as the end of this month. Trump frequently used that section to push his racist immigration policies, including targeted bans on Muslims and Latinx immigrants.

Notably, Biden has admitted that he might not have the legal authority to issue such a sweeping command without a legitimate reason to do so.

“We’re examining whether or not I have that power,” Biden said.

In other comments during the interview, Biden suggested he might issue an executive order regardless of whether or not his aides believe it’s legal.

“Some are suggesting that I should just go ahead and try it. And if I get shut down by the court, I get shut down by the court,” he said.

There’s a strong likelihood that Biden is seeking to enact inhumane immigration restrictions in response to right-wing attacks against him during a presidential election year, even as polling indicates that voters want a humanitarian approach to the issue. Indeed, a PBS NewsHour poll from February found that more respondents (25 percent) said the top priority for the U.S. on immigration should be taking in refugees who are trying to escape violence and war, while a smaller but similar proportion (23 percent) said the top priority should be increasing security to deter crossings. (The plurality of respondents, 44 percent, said the top priority should be ensuring immigrants who came to the country as children are able to remain in the U.S. and become citizens.)

Critics blasted the Biden administration for its willingness to enact right-wing immigration policies using the same justifications that Trump did during his tenure.

“As I’ve repeatedly explained, including to Congress, any 212(f) proclamation used at the border would be (1) completely useless as a practical matter given the ways in which 212(f) works and (2) almost certainly unlawful and likely to be struck down in court, as Trump’s was,” Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director for the American Immigration Council, said in a post on X reacting to Biden’s comments.

Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network, an organization dedicated to ending immigration detention, also excoriated Biden’s comments.

“Biden continues to send a clear and dangerous message that he sees immigrant and refugee lives as expendable by enacting a racist and immoral agenda on immigration,” Shah said in a statement to Truthout. “Despite his numerous promises to establish a ‘fair and humane’ immigration system, Biden is rapidly moving to the right on immigration.”

“It’s true, we need a dramatic step” when it comes to immigration, Shah said. But that step should be toward welcoming “all immigrants with dignity and respect, including people seeking asylum.”

“Instead, Biden continues to move in the wrong direction, playing political games with people’s lives,” Shah concluded. “We join immigrants and communities across the country in condemning Biden for continuing to treat immigrants as expendable and legitimizing the far-right’s fear mongering and racist agenda.”

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