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Biden Administration Halt on the Border

U.S. border with Mexico

On Tuesday, President Biden unveiled a halt to asylum processing at the U.S. border with Mexico when illegal entries reach a threshold that he deems excessive.

The measure takes effect immediately because the new policy is triggered when arrests for illegal entry reach 2,500. About 4,000 people already are entering the U.S. each day.

Advocates say it will put migrants in danger and violate international obligations to provide safe haven to people whose lives are threatened. The Biden administration denies that. Legal challenges are imminent.

There are also serious questions of whether the new measure can stop large-scale migrant entries. Mexico has agreed to take back migrants who are not Mexican, but only in limited numbers.

Those who claim asylum today are generally free to live and work in the United States while their claims slowly wind through overwhelmed immigration courts.

The pandemic-related asylum restrictions known as Title 42 carried no legal consequences and encouraged repeat attempts. Now, migrants will be issued deportation orders even if they are denied a chance to seek asylum. That will expose them to criminal prosecution if they try again and ban them for several years from legally entering the country. It’s a key difference.

Migrants who express fear for their safety if they’re deported will be screened by U.S. asylum officers but under a higher standard than what’s currently in place. If they pass, they can continue to pursue other forms of humanitarian protection, including those laid out in the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

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