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WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

Ask PolitiFact: Does Joe Biden's asylum order ‘shut down’ the border?

A man speaking behind a podium.
Manuel Balce Ceneta
/
AP
President Joe Biden speaks about an order to enact immediate significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in the East Room at the White House in Washington, June 4, 2024.

WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.

President Joe Biden’s recent immigration proclamation would significantly restrict migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. But does this action amount to a border "shutdown" as some Democratic politicians have claimed?

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., criticized Biden’s directive, saying it used the same immigration law provision former President Donald Trump used in 2017 to restrict immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

"Enforcement-only actions on immigration, like shutting down the border, are the same types of tactics that Trump used. They don’t work," Jayapal said in a June 4 .

Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., also issued a June 4 expressing concern about Biden’s order "to shut down the border."

"Attempts like this, to ‘close’ the border, do nothing but put lives at risk and dampen our nation’s economic prosperity," Correa said.

Although some Democratic lawmakers criticized Biden’s order for being too strict, said it didn’t go far enough to limit the number of migrants crossing the border.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called the order a "joke" in a June 4 , saying "it would still allow close to a million people a year to cross illegally."

Immigration experts had mixed responses to Biden’s new immigration order; some said it amounted to a shutdown, while others noted that his action leaves open certain avenues whereby migrants can enter.

What Biden’s immigration proclamation does

Biden’s June 4 says that when the southern border is "overwhelmed," it bars migrants who cross the border illegally from receiving asylum. These migrants will be subject to immediate expedited removal orders.

Migrants who come to the U.S. through an official port of entry can continue to seek appointments through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s CBP One mobile app, according to the Department of Homeland Security. U.S. officials will screen migrants who cross legally and express a fear of returning to their home country, a fear of persecution or torture or an intention to apply for asylum.

"If an individual chooses not to use our legal pathways, if they choose to come without permission and against the law, they’ll be restricted from receiving asylum and staying in the United States," Biden said during a about the proclamation.

Migrants who cross illegally and do not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S. will be deported and barred from reentering the U.S. for five years.

The and said the directive will take effect anytime the weekly average of daily illegal border crossings reaches at least 2,500. The administration said June 4 that the directive would be in .

If the weekly average of daily border crossings drops to 1,500 or less for 14 consecutive days, regular asylum processing will resume, the Biden administration said. The last time border crossings were below that threshold was July 2020, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the research and human rights advocacy group said.

Biden’s proclamation does not apply to "lawful permanent residents, unaccompanied children, victims of a severe form of trafficking, and other noncitizens with a valid visa or other lawful permission to enter the United States," the Department of Homeland Security said.

What immigration experts said about Biden’s order

Mario Russell, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, told PolitiFact that he sees this new rule as effectively shutting down the border.

"By turning people away and not allowing them access to the asylum adjudication system when they present themselves between ports of entry means that, in effect, the border will be shut down," Russell said.

Russell noted that there are few appointments available to migrants through the CBP One mobile app. He called the border crossing threshold that triggers the order "disturbingly low."

Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, disagreed that Biden’s action amounts to a "border shutdown." She said it’s "not feasible for any president to fully shut down the border, as regular trade and travel must still occur."

Biden’s directive means asylum access will be further restricted when migrant apprehensions reach a certain threshold. Migrants screened for other protections will have to pass higher standards, Putzel-Kavanaugh said. These other protections, if granted, allow migrants to stay in the country, but don’t have the same benefits as asylum, such as a pathway to permanent U.S. residence.

"It is possible that this could have a deterrent effect in the short term and result in a reduction of people who enter the country," Putzel-Kavanaugh said. "But all apprehended migrants must still be processed, and the capacity constraints faced by (the Department of Homeland Security) will remain until Congress fully funds the immigration system."

Monika Langarica, senior staff attorney at the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, said Biden’s directive "does not shut the door to newcomers altogether" because migrants will continue to be processed under the new guidance.

"Saying this amounts to a ‘border shutdown’ is imprecise because it simplifies what is actually a complex rule that will cause a lot of confusion for people seeking asylum," Langarica said.

Theresa Cardinal Brown, immigration policy director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said in a June 4 that Biden’s order will not close or shut down the border because migrants can still request asylum at ports of entry through the CBP One app and business at ports will continue.

"It's not like the border has just one set of gates that can get locked with a ‘we're closed’ sign," Brown said.

Our Sources

  • Phone interview with Mario Russell, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, June 5, 2024
  • Email interview with Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh, associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, June 4, 2024
  • Email interview with Monika Langarica, senior staff attorney at the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, June 5, 2024
  • Theresa Cardinal Brown, , June 4, 2024
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal, , June 4, 2024
  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal, "," June 4, 2024
  • Rep. Lou Correa, "," June 4, 2024
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, , June 4, 2024
  • Sen. Katie Britt, , June 4, 2024
  • Rep. Jerry Carl, , June 5, 2024
  • The White House, "," June 4, 2024
  • The White House, "," June 4, 2024
  • The White House, "," June 4, 2024
  • The White House, "," June 4, 2024
  • Department of Homeland Security, "," June 4, 2024
  • Department of Homeland Security, , June 4, 2024
  • Washington Office on Latin America, "," June 4, 2024
  • CBS News, "," June 4, 2024
  • The New York Times, "," June 4, 2024
  • The Associated Press, "," June 5, 2024
Sara Swann is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C.
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