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President Biden's executive order on the border both political and practical

Commentary:

In February, three senators -a Republican, a Democrat, and an Independent – came together to craft an omnibus bill that would address issues at the Mexican border. This $181 billion bill included more enforcement personnel at the border, more equipment, expanded detention centers, restricting asylum claims, and allowing the Executive Branch to restrict northbound passage of migrants seeking asylum, and/or deporting migrants without processing their asylum claims if personnel are overwhelmed or processing centers are full. Donald Trump, fearing that he would lose a heated issue that he could use against President Biden in his presidential campaign, threatened Republican senators to reject the bill, which was dead on arrival.

On May 23, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer allowed a vote on the border bill, which failed 43 to 50. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski was the lone Republican to vote for the bill. Oklahoma Senator James Lankford and Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema, two of the three senators who crafted the bill, voted against it. Thus, the unwillingness of Republicans to take any action on the border, and the drama continued.

On June 4, feeling compelled to take action on the border if Congress is unwilling, President Joe Biden issued an executive order allowing his administration to deny entry to most foreign nationals who do not have prior authorization to enter the country. The order will examine a seven-day average of daily border crossings. When this seven-day average exceeds 2,500 at the Mexican border, U.S. officials will stop conducting asylum interviews until the average goes down to 1,500. There are exceptions to the ban, including people who are experiencing safety or medical threats, trafficking victims, and unaccompanied minors. Migrants who are expelled under the order will face a five-year ban into the U.S. and potential prosecution.

The 1,500 figure is an extremely low figure, given average attempted crossings during the past few years. It will essentially allow Biden to shut down asylum claims and curtail the flow of migrants to the U.S. border. Recent reports have stated that the average seven-day figure at the border has been 3,700. Since the order has been in place, attempted crossings are down 20 percent and falling.

Many will view this as more of a political instead of a practical move. Biden is running for reelection, and Trump continues to hammer his administration as being weak on border security. I believe that the move is both political and practical. I have personally seen the strain that waves of migrants have placed on border enforcement officials, as they struggle to process migrants surrendering at ports of entry to claim asylum. I have seen the strain on border cities such as El Paso, Texas, and the shelters that struggle to feed, clothe, and take care of migrants, many of whom arrive in the U.S. with just the clothes on their backs. Something had to be done and Biden’s executive order is it.

By refusing to pass a comprehensive border bill, Republicans have handed President Biden the moral high ground on the border issue, and also undermined their claim that he is doing nothing about the border. This is ironic, because Biden took too long to address border issues. Because of this, border security and the immigration have become major political issues for Americans, the majority of whom want tighter border security and a cap on immigration. Biden can now claim that he, not Republicans, is taking a major step to address immigration at the border.

The executive order triggers four pressing issues in my mind. First, the order will definitely have an effect on Mexican border communities. Mexico has previously agreed to accept up to 30,000 migrants per month, who are waiting on their asylum claims. This has put strain on Mexican border cities such as Juarez. Lately, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has been more proactive in disrupting the flow of migrants to the U.S. by using buses to pick them up and send them to Mexico’s southern border. Will Mexico’s President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum continue to intervene in the migrant flow to the U.S., and adhere to AMLO’s migrant shelter agreement he made with the U.S.?

Second, the order will definitely cause more migrants to use the CBP One Mobile App, which was created to allow asylum seekers to electronically schedule an appointment with Customs and Border Protection personnel. There have been complaints that accessing the app is difficult, due to the sheer number of users. We should expect additional users now that the order is in place. Will the app be able to handle this without crashing?

Third, it is almost certain that the ACLU and various immigration-support groups in the U.S. will challenge Biden’s order in court. In the past, certain aggressive executive policies towards the border have been reversed because of challenges.

Finally, what happens to the migrants who are waiting in Mexico for a chance to seek asylum in the U.S.? These are human beings in a desperate situation, many of which do not have the means to return home. Do they remain in limbo until they are desperate enough to attempt to illegally cross into the U.S.?

Jerry Pacheco is the President of the Border Industrial Association. Pacheco's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.

Jerry Pacheco is President of the Border Industrial Association and Executive Director of the International Business Accelerator.