Biden’s ‘shameful’ asylum restrictions will face legal challenge: ‘It was illegal when Trump did it, and it is no less illegal now’

Civil rights groups that successfully blocked Trump-era immigration plans now plan to challenge Biden’s order that put ‘thousands of lives at risk’

Alex Woodward
Tuesday 04 June 2024 19:44 BST
Biden Says Republicans Left Him 'No Choice' On Immigration Restrictions

President Joe Biden’s latest executive action to ban people seeking asylum from crossing the US-Mexico border will face legal challenges from civil rights groups that successfully overturned immigration rules under Donald Trump’s administration.

Under Biden’s plan announced on Tuesday, the US will effectively shut down asylum claims once the number of daily border encounters reaches 2,500 at ports of entry, and will only reopen once those daily encounters decline to 1,500.

Critics have warned that such an action upends international guarantees that protect asylum rights for people on US soil, and will endanger the lives of thousands of people fleeing violence, instability and corruption below the southern border.

Biden’s executive order also mirrors an illegal Trump-era plan that was rejected by a federal judge as an unlawful attempt to “rewrite” the nation’s immigration laws to “impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.”

That decision followed a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, which now plans to challenge Biden’s actions in court.

“It was illegal when Trump did it, and it is no less illegal now,” according to Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

As The Independent previously reported, Biden’s order invokes Section 212(f) of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the president to suspend immigration for anyone determined to be “detrimental to the interests of the United States” – the same authority that Trump used to unilaterally ban immigrants from majority-Muslim countries, which was later struck down in court.

Immigrants surrender to a border agent at the US-Mexico border in California on May 15.
Immigrants surrender to a border agent at the US-Mexico border in California on May 15. (REUTERS)

Biden’s order will put “thousands of lives at risk,” Deirdre Schifeling, chief political and advocacy officer at the ACLU, added in a statement shared with The Independent.

“They will not meet the needs at the border, nor will they fix our broken immigration system,” she added.

On a call with reporters on Tuesday, an administration official pushed against comparisons to Trump’s border policies while acknowledging that the White House is preparing for legal challenges.

“The Trump administration attacked almost every facet of the immigration system, and did so in a shameful and inhumane way,” according to an official.

“[Biden’s] action will not ban people based on their religion, it will not separate kids from their mothers,” the official added. “There’re also narrow humanitarian exceptions to the bar on asylum, including for those facing an acute medical emergency or an imminent and extreme threat to life or safety. The Trump administration’s actions did not include these exceptions.”

The Biden administration will also speed migrants through fast-tracked deportation proceedings, which critics fear will expose already-vulnerable people who are seeking protection into volatile and violent circumstances on the southern border.

“This executive action plays into false narratives about invasions at the border and advances a policy grounded in white supremacist ideas at the expense of people in search of safety in the US,” according to Amy Fischer, director of refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA.

The president’s “shameful” order “sets a dangerous international precedent” while ignoring root causes driving immigration and the needs of US cities experiencing an increase in newly arrived immigrants, Fischer said in a statement shared with The Independent.


“It will only cause more chaos and cruelty, and inevitably, more torture opens in a new tab, violence, and deaths of women, men, and children seeking safety in the US,” according to Fischer. “It’s deeply disappointing to see President Biden so hellbent on dismantling human rights for people seeking asylum and implementing policies that are plainly illegal under international and refugee law.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Refugee Convention have affirmed asylum rights for people fleeing persecution and violence.

In the US, a person granted asylum is legally allowed to remain in the country without fear of deportation, and qualifies for legal work with potential pathways to permanent legal status. Those claims can only be made at the US border or within the US.

Biden’s latest action “is a direct assault” on those rights, according to Guerline Jozef, executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “While I understand that the United States must protect its national security interests, we must do so without violating the rights of asylum seekers.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in