Mayorkas defends Biden’s asylum action amid criticism from both sides while calling on Congress to do more

Adrees Latif/Reuters/File

A drone view shows asylum-seeking migrants from China and Turkey as they climb a hill while seeking to surrender to immigration officials after crossing the U.S. border from Mexico at Jacumba Hot Springs, California, United States, May 20, 2024.


Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday pushed back against criticism of President Joe Biden’s new executive action restricting asylum, while calling on Congress to take action at the border.

“It’s early, the signs are positive. Our staff has done an extraordinary job implementing a very important change in the way we operate at the southern border,” Mayorkas said on ABC’s “This Week,” noting that the implementation of the new policy – ​​announced last Tuesday – is only just beginning.

The executive action — which bars migrants crossing the border illegally from seeking asylum, with limited exceptions, once an average daily threshold is reached — marked the administration’s most dramatic action on the southern border of the United States, which former President Donald Trump made a priority. of his 2024 campaign. But attacks on the new policy from Republicans and progressive Democrats have underscored the precarious position Biden finds himself in on immigration ahead of the November election.

Republican governor. Greg Abbott of Texas, for example, on Sunday accused Biden of “gaslighting” Americans. “People need to understand that Biden, what he has done, is not doing anything to actually secure the border, in fact, it’s the opposite,” Abbott said on Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

“When he stops the asylum process, Biden does nothing to prevent anyone from crossing the border. There is no type of enforcement mechanism.

Even if the number of encounters between points of entry remains high, it is too early to know the impact of this policy. However, Mayorkas insisted that asylum restrictions would reduce the number of people trying to cross the border.

“Our intention is to really change the risk calculus of individuals before they leave their home country and incentivize them to use the legal avenues we have made available to them and keep them out of the hands of exploitative smugglers “Mayorkas told ABC’s Martha. Raddatz.

The new policy has reportedly been in effect for at least three years due to an increase in the number of encounters with migrants, according to a CNN analysis of data.

Asked why the administration didn’t act sooner after the bipartisan immigration deal failed in February, Mayorkas pointed to the second attempt to advance the measure, which failed last month due to opposition from the Republican Party and Democratic divisions.

“The bipartisan agreement was rejected once, we insisted again. It was rejected a second time, then we developed it and implemented it,” he said. “And we are only at an early stage, and do not underestimate the importance of this decision and the importance of its implementation. And that requires cooperation from other countries, which we have obtained.”

But Mayorkas again called on Congress to do more. “What we need is congressional action. We cannot staff the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, the Department of Justice. We need Congress to legislate.

In February, Senate Republicans blocked the landmark bipartisan border deal and foreign aid package amid a torrent of attacks from Trump and top House Republicans. Democrats revived the border measure in May in an effort to pressure Republicans and change the narrative on border security, but the bill ended up exposing divisions among Democrats and threatening to undermine communications efforts party.

Biden’s new measure further exposed this divide, with some progressives opposing it and comparing it to the Trump administration’s policies.

The Democratic senator. Chris Coons of Delaware, a close Biden ally and co-chair of his election campaign, tried to draw a distinction between the approaches of the current and previous administrations.

“Former President Trump attempted to implement a Muslim ban, a ban on entry into this country explicitly based on a single religion. He also showed cruelty. The forced separation of parents from their children and the caging of children at our border,” he said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” pointing the finger at Trump for intervening to derail the agreement in Congress.

“Former President Trump actually wants to solve a problem through his election rather than a solution supported by a bipartisan group of senators,” the Delaware Democrat said.

Progressive House Democrats, however, called last week’s executive action a “step in the wrong direction” and urged Biden to “step back.” And the ACLU said it intends to sue over the new measure, which it compared to those taken under the Trump administration.

“I respectfully disagree with the ACLU,” Mayorkas said Sunday. “I anticipate they will sue us. We support the legality of what we did. It’s not just about securing the border, Martha, we have a humanitarian obligation to keep vulnerable people out of the hands of the smugglers who exploit them.”

CNN reported Sunday that Biden, seeking to consolidate Latino votes, was poised to take another immigration action — this one aimed at providing legal status to long-term undocumented immigrants married to citizens Americans.

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