Joe Biden closes the borders in the South (a little)

Without the approval of Congress, US President Biden has issued a new asylum rule: If more than 2,500 migrants enter the USA per day, the individual must prove that he fears for his life. The tightening of asylum law is not only due to the election campaign.

When Joe Biden still saw himself as an interim president, shortly after his election almost four years ago, he assigned the areas of immigration and the southern border to his deputy and possible successor Kamala Harris. For the US vice presidents, this was both an opportunity and a burden, because hardly any issue excites Americans more than illegal immigration. Anything less than a resounding success would be interpreted as an unforgivable failure. Now Joe Biden has pulled the emergency brake.

Joe Biden drastically restricts asylum law

By decree, i.e. without the approval of the US Congress, the US President has drastically tightened the asylum rules. The new measures allow the authorities to deport people who have entered the country irregularly, sometimes without processing their asylum applications. There are exceptions, but only in a few cases. “I am doing what the Republicans in Congress are refusing to do: I am taking the necessary steps to secure our border,” said Biden, who is running for re-election as head of state in November.

The new regulation applies as soon as the average number of illegal border crossings from Mexico exceeds 2,500 per day in a week. It will be lifted when this number falls below 1,500 again. US media reported, citing the authorities, that the number is currently over 4,000 per day. Since the beginning of the fiscal year in October, there have been around 1.5 million “irregular encounters” at the southern border – cases in which people were arrested, usually briefly, or deported directly.

During Biden's term in office, around 2.4 million illegal border crossings were recorded for two years in a row. Thousands of people come to the USA every day, mostly from Central and Latin America, fleeing poverty and conflict in their home countries. Last December, the US Border Patrol reported more than 300,000 arrests – more than ever before in a single month.

People must be “credibly afraid”

The authorities are under pressure. The justice system can barely keep up with processing asylum applications. There is also a lack of accommodation and other resources for the new arrivals. This is now also noticeable in parts of the country far from the border – among other things because Republican governors from southern states such as Texas are having migrants brought in buses from the border to democratically governed parts of the USA as a protest.

Until further notice, the following applies to asylum seekers: Among other things, they must prove that they have a “credible fear” of persecution or torture in their home country. Those affected will then be granted protection, but not under the same standards as other asylum seekers. On the other hand, those who present themselves regularly, for example by requesting an appointment from outside the USA using a specially set up app, should be given a fair chance, or at least that is how the government presents it.

Criticism of Biden decree from all sides

However, there are still a number of questions about the feasibility of this. For example, the USA relies on Mexico for deportations. Many people choose to travel via their southern neighbor; according to the United Nations International Organization for Migration, it is the deadliest land migration route in the world. Hundreds die every year on the strenuous and dangerous journey north, for example from lack of water and heat stroke. The number of unreported cases is significantly higher.

Criticism of the harsh order followed promptly and from all directions:

  • Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal called it a “dangerous step in the wrong direction.” The right to seek asylum is enshrined in US law and the country's international treaty obligations.
  • The UN refugee agency UNHCR called on the US to reconsider the new rules “which undermine the fundamental right to asylum”.
  • The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, described the decree as a “political stunt” in an election year. It does not provide for new money for border protection or deportations of those who are already in the USA illegally.

The conservative presidential candidate Donald Trump is able to score points with many Americans with his tough demands to combat illegal immigration. He recently announced that if he is re-elected, he would carry out mass deportations. The National Guard would be deployed for this purpose, “but I would also have no problem using the military,” said Trump. The fact that the use of the army against civilians on US soil is prohibited does not bother the former president, because people who have entered the country illegally are “not civilians,” but “an invasion.”

Trump with a leap of faith

So far, according to polls, Americans have tended to trust Donald Trump when it comes to fighting illegal immigration. Now Joe Biden is also playing the tough guy. We haven't heard anything from Kamala Harris for a long time.

Sources: “Taz”, “New York Times”, Reuters, DPA, AFP