Joe Biden set to tighten US immigration with limit on asylum seekers

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Joe Biden is poised to order a tightening of immigration across the US’s southern border with Mexico in an attempt to neutralise one of his biggest political weaknesses in the US election against Donald Trump.

The US president is set to sign an executive order on Tuesday that would limit migrants’ ability to seek asylum if they have crossed the border illegally, enabling their rapid deportation, people familiar with the plan said.

Biden’s move marks a bet that he can limit the political damage to his campaign from the surge in immigration that has unfolded during his White House tenure, and prevent a spike in border crossings ahead of the election.

But limiting asylum rights and facilitating deportations also risks further alienating some leftwing Democratic voters, many of whom are unhappy with Biden over his handling of Israel’s war in Gaza.

The president has decided to issue the executive order tightening immigration policy after a bipartisan agreement in Congress to implement similar measures was quashed by Trump, who accused it of being too weak.

“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,” a White House spokesperson said on Monday.

“The administration continues to explore a series of policy options and we remain committed to taking action to address our broken immigration system,” the official added.

Immigration is frequently cited in polling as among the top concerns for voters in this year’s presidential election — and this is expected to benefit Trump in November.

Trump has pledged even more draconian anti-immigration plans, including a mass deportation scheme and the use of the military to enforce his policies. He has also described immigrants as “poisoning the blood of our country”, in language Democrats say echoes the racist rhetoric of Nazi Germany.

Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, scoffed at Biden’s planned executive order saying it would simply entrench the Democratic president’s lax immigration policies.

“This is all part of a long-term plan from the Biden Administration to expedite the third world resettlement project by making illegal immigration as fast and efficient as possible,” Miller wrote on X on Monday. “A government-sponsored invasion. A Biden-sponsored invasion”.

Under Biden’s plan, he would be able to turn back asylum seekers if the number of migrants entering the US illegally reached a daily threshold of about 4,000 per day, said people familiar with the discussions.

According to the US Customs and Border Protection agency, monthly migrant entries at the southern border hit a peak or more than 300,000 in December last year, before declining to 178,000 in April — a lower figure than in April of 2022 and 2023.

Biden has been under pressure not only from Republicans but also some Democrats in border states such as Arizona and Texas to take a tougher line on immigration.

While he had released a plan for long-term reform of the immigration and asylum system at the start of the administration, he has been criticised for being too slow in responding to the surge in arrivals during his tenure.

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