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Biden signs order to limit migrants crossing Mexico border

Published June 4, 2024last updated June 5, 2024

The United States will temporarily close its Mexico border to asylum seekers from Wednesday after President Joe Biden signed off on sweeping measures aimed at curbing illegal migration.

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on immigration at the White House
US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order tightening restrictions on irregular arrivals.Image: Michael Reynolds/EPA

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed off on an executive order to "gain control" of the southern border with Mexico, as he looks to present a tougher stance on immigration ahead of November's US election.

The long-expected sweeping measures include a temporary closure of the border whenever arrests of illegal migrants by US Border Patrol exceed 2,500 per day.

Given current figures, the measure will therefore come into immediate effect as of Wednesday and will remain in place until the number of apprehensions drops back to below 1,500 per day.

The executive order also facilitates a swifter deportation of illegal migrants back to Mexico.

Unaccompanied minors are not expected to be covered by the new rules and migrants will still be able to request an appointment to present their asylum application under the planned measure, according to the broadcaster CNN.

Biden issues new policy to curb asylum at US-Mexico border

Biden: 'Necessary steps to secure our border'

"I've come here today to do what the Republicans in Congress refuse to do: take the necessary steps to secure our border," Biden said in a brief address at the White House, flanked by officials from border states.

Under Biden, illegal crossings of the 1,900-mile border have surged to record levels, peaking at an average of 10,000 per day in December.

The numbers have fallen considerably in recent months – a change US officials have attributed to increased enforcement on Mexico's side of the border – but polls show that illegal migration is still one of Biden's biggest obstacles as he seeks reelection.

US President bars migrants from crossing US southern border

Criticism from all sides

Biden has come under fire from all sides for his response.

While the UN refugee agency has said it was "profoundly concerned" and other rights groups have threatened legal action over the stringent measures, Republicans such as House Speaker Mike Johnson have dismissed the move as "window dressing."

Former President and likely Republican candidate Donald Trump accused Biden of having "surrendered" the border to illegal immigration, writing on his "Truth" social media platform:

"Millions of people have poured into our country and now, after nearly four years of his failed, weak leadership, pathetic leadership, crooked Joe Biden is pretending to finally do something about the border."

Trump's own attempts to curb illegal migration during his presidency, including a headline-grabbing wall, also failed to tackle the issue.

Trump to appeal against 'hush money' verdict

Biden hit back by slamming Trump and the Republicans for "weaponizing" migration by blocking his request for billions of dollars in border funding in what he called an "extremely cynical, political move."

Addressing the criticism from the left, the 81-year-old said he would not "demonize" migrants and said: "For those who say the steps I've taken are too strict, I say to you: be patient."

In the Senate, Biden has backed a bill written by a combination of Democrat and Republican lawmakers aimed at blocking asylum-seeker applications if the number of irregular crossings reaches a certain level.

Biden's new policy could put pressure on Mexico's Claudia Sheinbaum, who was elected president on Sunday and is set to take office in October, to continue to enhance border enforcement.

Mexico elects leftist Sheinbaum as first female president

mf/jsi (Reuters, dpa)