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Texas Republicans, Democrats and immigrant advocacy groups blast Biden’s asylum executive order

Men seeking asylum line up as they wait to be processed after crossing the border with Mexico nearby, on April 25, 2024, in Boulevard, Calif. President Joe Biden has ordered a halt to asylum processing at the U.S. border with Mexico when arrests for illegal entry top 2,500 a day, which was triggered immediately.
Gregory Bull, File
AP Photo
Men seeking asylum line up as they wait to be processed after crossing the border with Mexico nearby, on April 25, 2024, in Boulevard, Calif. President Joe Biden has ordered a halt to asylum processing at the U.S. border with Mexico when arrests for illegal entry top 2,500 a day, which was triggered immediately.

The Texas Civil Rights Project and others are condemning President Biden’s Tuesday executive action to limit asylum requests at the border.

The group said it plans to sue, adding that the order would “have devastating humanitarian consequences”

“This announcement is a shameful attempt to incite fear and score political points at the expense of families, children, and adults seeking safety at the border,” said Karla Marisol Vargas, Senior Attorney for the Beyond Borders Program at Texas Civil Rights Project. “We have seen the failures and dangers of similar policies in the past, such as with Title 42.”

Under Biden’s order, asylum claims won’t be processed when the seven-day average of unauthorized border crossings between ports of entry exceeds 2,500.

The action resembles former President Trump’s 2018 efforts to halt migrant crossings which were later struck down by the courts.

“It was illegal when Trump did it, and it is no less illegal now,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. "We intend to challenge this order in court.”

Texas lawmakers and immigrant advocacy groups react

Criticism and condemnation came quickly from Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, an El Paso Democrat, wrote on X that she was disappointed the Biden administration’s new policy focused solely on enforcement.

“It is my sincere hope that administrative actions on immigration relief, like parole in place for spouses of US citizens and designations of Temporary Protected Status for vulnerable populations will also happen,” she posted.

Escobar called on her colleagues in Congress to work across party lines and be willing to compromise on solutions for immigration reform.

Fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio said “The 'daily threshold' in this executive order would amount to a functional ban on asylum for many families escaping persecution and violence.”

Meanwhile, Texas Republicans blasted Biden.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn and Senator Ted Cruz held a joint press conference after the president’s announcement. Cornyn said, “This is political cover, and the American people will not be fooled,” and Cruz called it a “political play before the election.”

Immigrant advocacy groups are also decrying the new order. Austin-based American Gateways called it “misguided” and said the move would threaten human rights.

“Saying we are ‘closing the border’ might sound good in a soundbite, but it’s not a real policy,” said Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways. “People fleeing desperate situations are going to take the risk to get out no matter what. Telling them the border is closed today – but maybe not next week – just delays the reality of having to grapple with a system that doesn’t work.”

Global Refuge, the group formerly known as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, accused the Biden administration of being hamstrung by Congressional inaction and partisan politics.

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, the group’s president and CEO, worried about the “moral implications of turning away asylum-seeking families desperate for and deserving of protection.”

“Our fear is that such restrictions would ultimately deny protection to persecuted individuals and families based on increasingly arbitrary factors, and not on the actual merits of their claim,” Vignarajah said.

She and others have repeatedly called on the Biden administration to come up with a more holistic policy to managing border crossings, such as implementing guest worker and family reunification programs.

The International Rescue Committee, which operates in Texas, said the country’s immigration policy should adapt to the current historic levels of displacement around the globe.

“Instead, it doubles down on deterrence policies that are ineffective, misguided, and deeply harmful to families and individuals seeking safety at the southern border,” said Hans Van de Weerd, the group’s Senior Vice President for Resettlement, Asylum and Integration. “It sends a counterproductive message to other countries hosting people seeking safety that refugees can be turned away at will.”

Many like IRC have also pointed out the economic contributions of immigrants and that migrants seeking asylum could, in fact, fill labor shortages in certain industries.

Biden’s executive order goes into effect Tuesday at 11 p.m. CT.

 Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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Copyright 2024 KERA

Stella Chávez is KERA’s education reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35. The award-winning entry was  “Yolanda’s Crossing,” a seven-part DMN series she co-wrote that reconstructs the 5,000-mile journey of a young Mexican sexual-abuse victim from a small Oaxacan village to Dallas. For the last two years, she worked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she was part of the agency’s outreach efforts on the Affordable Care Act and ran the regional office’s social media efforts.