Biden Expected to Sign Executive Order Restricting Asylum


President Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday allowing him to temporarily seal the U.S. border with Mexico to migrants when crossings surge, a move that would suspend longtime protections for asylum seekers in the United States.

Mr. Biden’s senior aides have briefed members of Congress in recent days on the forthcoming action and told them to expect the president to sign the order alongside mayors from South Texas, according to several people familiar with the plans.

“I’ve been briefed on the pending executive order,” said Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas who previously criticized Mr. Biden for not bolstering enforcement at the border earlier in his presidency. “I certainly support it because I’ve been advocating for these measures for years. While the order is yet to be released, I am supportive of the details provided to me thus far.”

The order would represent the single most restrictive border policy instituted by Mr. Biden, or any modern Democrat, and echoes a 2018 effort by President Donald J. Trump to block migration that was assailed by Democrats and blocked by federal courts.

Although the executive action is almost certain to face legal challenges, Mr. Biden is under intense political pressure to address illegal migration, a top concern of voters ahead of the presidential election this year.

The decision shows how the politics of immigration have tilted sharply to the right over the course of Mr. Biden’s presidency. Polls suggest growing support, even inside the president’s party, for border measures that once Democrats denounced and Mr. Trump championed.

The order would allow border officials to prevent migrants from claiming asylum and rapidly turn them away once border crossings exceed a certain threshold. Government officials earlier this year discussed allowing Mr. Biden to shut down the border if there were an average of 5,000 border crossings in a week, or 8,500 in a single day, but those involved in the negotiations cautioned that the threshold was not finalized and could change. White House officials have been focused on a trigger that would empower Mr. Biden to shut down the border.

On Sunday, border agents made more than 3,500 apprehensions of migrants crossing the border without authorization, according to a person with knowledge of the data. The numbers on Sunday were in line with recent trends of crossings at the southern border.

The restrictions will likely not apply to minors who cross the border alone, according to an official briefed on the order.

The executive action will likely mirror a measure in a failed bipartisan bill from earlier this year that had some of the most significant border security restrictions Congress had contemplated in years. The bill would have provided billions in funding for the border, including the hiring of thousands of asylum officers to process claims.

But Republicans thwarted the bill in February, saying it was not strong enough. Many of them, egged on by Mr. Trump, were loath to give Mr. Biden a legislative victory in an election year. Mr. Biden’s aides believe the executive order can provide Democrats another data point to cite when arguing to voters that they have sought solutions at the border while Republicans were more focused on using it as a political issue.

“While congressional Republicans chose to stand in the way of additional border enforcement, President Biden will not stop fighting to deliver the resources that border and immigration personnel need to secure our border,” Angelo Fernández Hernández, a White House spokesman, said in a statement on Monday. He did not confirm the plans but said the administration was exploring “a series of policy options and we remain committed to taking action to address our broken immigration system.”

Administration officials have said that executive action was not their preference — and that they believe any order would face a legal challenge.

“Legislation is what is needed,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said last month.

“Executive action will be challenged,” he added.“ I am confident in that. And then the question will be what is the outcome of those proceedings? Legislation is a more certain delivery of solution.”

In a sign of just how much the politics on the issue have changed, Mr. Biden, as a candidate in 2019, excoriated Mr. Trump’s policies during a debate.

“This is the first president in the history of the United States of America that anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country,” Mr. Biden said at the time. “That’s never happened before.”

“You come to the United States and you make your case,” he added. “That’s how you seek asylum, based on the following premise, why I deserve it under American law.”

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