Biden closes US border with Mexico to illegal immigrants

The UN expresses its concern

Screenshot 5 2 USA, Mexico, Biden

The US will close its border with Mexico to illegal immigrants seeking asylum within hours until further notice, after President Joe Biden announced a dramatic tightening of US immigration policy five months before the presidential election.

The Democratic president, 81, who will seek re-election on November 5 against Republican Donald Trump, signed an executive order on the issue on Tuesday.

The text deprives immigrants who enter the US territory illegally of the right to asylum when their number exceeds 2.500 per day for seven consecutive days, as is currently the case.

The order also facilitates deportations to Mexico, with few exceptions.

The American president has assured that the new measures will allow to "regain control" at the border with Mexico, as a record number of arrests of migrants from Central and Latin America who fled their countries to escape violence and poverty is recorded.

The measures announced will also help "restore order to the process" of managing asylum applications, the US president told reporters at the White House, assuring that his administration would continue to meet "all its obligations under international law".

He also once again accused his Republican opponents of blocking any immigration reform. "Let's solve the problem," he said, assuring at the same time that he never "demonizes" immigrants.

Asylum seekers will be allowed to re-enter after their number drops to the level of 1.500 a day, according to the US presidency.

The announcement came the day after Mexico's election, in which Claudia Sheinbaum won, the first woman to become head of state, a development welcomed by Washington.

The US president again congratulated Mexico in a telephone conversation with his outgoing counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, emphasizing bilateral cooperation, including on immigration.

Polls suggest that the immigration issue may decide Joe Biden's chances of re-election in November.

His opponent Donald Trump downplayed the order, which according to him is nothing but a joke as he "knows we have a debate in three weeks", as he pointed out through the social networking site he founded, Truth Social, referring to the June 27 debate.

Donald Trump often refers to shocking, particularly heinous murders, which he emphasizes are committed by people who entered the US illegally, seeking to create the impression that the country is being swept by a crime wave caused by illegal immigrants. But neither the available police statistics in American cities, nor studies prepared by experts confirm that such a phenomenon actually occurs.

Risky move

For his part, the Republican president of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, spoke of ashes in the eyes, of a political "trick" by President Biden with pre-election expediency.

Democrats and Republicans, engaged in heated exchanges of verbal fire over the immigration issue, could not agree on a draft law, the fruit of months of negotiations in the Senate, which was ultimately rejected by the American right in the House.

Joe Biden's executive order builds on a law that Donald Trump's administration had used to ban citizens of Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

The White House was still trying yesterday to fend off criticism that the Democratic president is copying his predecessor.

"All of these policies are at odds with how the previous administration managed immigration," said a senior US official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He demonized immigrants, launched mass raids, separated families at the border and locked children in cages," he added.

President Biden runs the risk of igniting anger from the left wing of his party with this decision.

"We will challenge this order in court," warned the ACLU, a powerful American rights group.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stressed for its part that it is "deeply concerned", stressing that many people in need of international protection will be denied asylum and calling on the Biden administration to "respect its international obligations" and to review its decisions.

As the presidential election looms, immigration is becoming a central issue on the campaign trail, with Republicans blaming Joe Biden for the "invasion" across the southern border.

Donald Trump, who ordered the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico during his term, which was partially done, has never stopped using inflammatory rhetoric about immigrants, going so far as to accuse them of "poisoning the blood " of our country — the phrase refers directly to Hitler's phraseology.

In the 12 months to October 2023, a record 2,4 million people were apprehended along the US-Mexico border.

In December, some 10.000 people, forced by violence or poverty to flee their countries in Central and Latin America, crossed the border illegally every day. Their numbers have since decreased, but the issue remains a burning one.