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Jun 4, 2024, 5:23pm EDT
politicsNorth America

Biden’s new immigration order earns some tepid support from Democrats

President Joe Biden announces an executive order on enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border during remarks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 4, 2024.
Leah Millis/REUTERS
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The News

Joe Biden’s new executive order cracking down on the border is getting mixed reviews among Capitol Hill Democrats, even among lawmakers who’ve pushed for a stricter approach on migrants.

The measure would let officials deny new asylum claims if average daily border crossings reach 2,500 or higher over a week, and includes exceptions for unaccompanied children. It is set to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

“I would have preferred to address this issue through bipartisan legislation,” Biden said at a White House signing event alongside a group Democratic lawmakers and mayors. “But Republicans left me with no choice.”

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In a possible sign of just how difficult the politics of the issue have become for the administration, a number of Democrats in tight Senate races skipped the ceremony despite being invited. Some of the party’s key lawmakers voiced doubts about the new order’s chances of surviving the court challenges that progressive legal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, quickly announced they would mount.

“I doubt that this is going to pass judicial muster. It’s a pretty extraordinary exercise of executive power,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who helped author the bipartisan border deal that collapsed earlier this year. “My belief from the beginning has been that you need legislation in order to shut down the border absent a public health emergency, and I think that’s what courts will conclude.”

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., told Semafor he was also concerned about the threat of legal challenges. He added that the White House can’t unilaterally appropriate federal cash that would make it easier to hire additional Border Patrol officers or detect fentanyl coming over the US-Mexico border.

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“Congress should be leading on this,” Kelly said. “We have the ability to provide money for this. The president can’t do that.”

Still, many of the party’s moderates offered praise for the steps, even as they argued Congress should do more and continued to savage Republicans for declining to pass compromise legislation.

“With today’s announcement, President Biden is taking decisive, commonsense action to restore order at the southern border at a time when Congressional Republicans continue to use it as a political football,” the House’s New Democrat Coalition said. “This executive order will reduce the burden on Customs and Border Protection, immigration courts and the immigration system, and the communities we represent.”

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Experts said Biden’s move to implement a cap on asylum amounted to a historically aggressive attempt to wrestle control of the border. “It certainly is more restrictive than anything any Democrat has done,” David Bier, director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, told Semafor.

Nonetheless, a group of centrist House members that included three “Blue Dog” co-chairs released a statement urging the Biden administration to take additional actions beyond what was already announced, including re-establishing the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program. “This order is an overdue step, but the border is not secure,” the group said. “This job is far from over for the President and Congress.” (In his Time magazine interview published Tuesday, Biden said he does not intend to revive the program).

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The View From The Left

Progressive Democrats continued to roundly criticize the new order, suggesting that Biden had turned his back on promises to take a more humane approach to the border compared former president Donald Trump.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, assailed the executive order as one that “undermined American values” and compared it to Trump’s previous attempts to limit asylum. “What we need instead are smart and strategic investments to reduce backlogs and wait times, address the root causes of migration, and open lawful pathways to migration,” Padilla said in a statement.

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The View From Mar-a-Lago

Trump and his campaign slammed the executive order, with the former president saying in a video posted to Truth Social that Biden is “pretending to finally do something about the border.”

On a press call for reporters hosted by the Trump campaign and the RNC, former Trump White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller accused the effort of being “a pro-invasion, pro-illegal migration executive order.” Meanwhile, former Acting ICE Director Tom Holman, who specified that he was not specifically representing the Trump campaign on the call, summed up the message coming from many Republicans in the wake of the order: Biden, he said, “has done nothing to honestly do his job and secure the border, and the action they’re taking today doesn’t secure the border. It doesn’t fix anything.”

Shelby Talcott contributed to this report.

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