US-Mexico Border

San Diego leaders respond to Biden's order that could close border to asylum seekers amid surges

The lack of San Diego County representation at the announcement didn't sit well with some

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President Joe Biden announced Tuesday he is allowing U.S. immigration officials to deport migrants without processing asylum claims once a certain cap has been reached.

Biden's executive order shuts down processing of asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border once the average number of daily requests reaches 2,500. Processing would reopen once the average number drops below that threshold.

San Diego is on track to have the highest number of people crossing its border to claim asylum since the late 1990s.

In announcing his order, the president used the opportunity to attempt to draw differences between himself and his opponent this November, Donald Trump.

"I will never demonize immigrants. I'll never refer to immigrants as poisoning the blood of a country. Further, I've never separated children from their families at the border," he said.

The executive action goes into effect at midnight.

"Despite the strengthened consequences in place at our border through the Lawful Pathways rule and the related measures that have led to record returns and removals, encounter levels are exceeding our capacity to deliver those consequences in a timely manner due to the outdated laws and limited resources we have available," according to a proclamation read by Biden.

The announcement received mixed reviews -- from Democrats decrying a return to what they call Trump-era policies to Republicans believing Biden isn't going far enough to address border security.

The directing attorney at the Immigrant Defenders Law Center is not sure this effort to deter migrants will change that.

“What we learned from prior border shutdowns, without safe legal pathways to enter the U.S., people take desperate measures to seek safety, to reunite with their family members," Melissa Shephard said.

The ACLU has already said it plans to challenge the order in court. NBC 7's Omari Fleming has more on the legal battle ahead.

Mayor Todd Gloria's response

However, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said Biden was walking a line necessitated by stonewalling in Congress.

"In the face of Congressional Republicans' continued inaction on legislation to help improve the situation at our southwest border, President Biden is acting decisively," Gloria told City News Service. "The current system is failing both local communities and asylum seekers; the fact remains we need comprehensive immigration reform."

Rep. Lou Correa's response

Rep. Lou Correa, an Orange County legislator and the top Democrat on the House Border Security and Enforcement Subcommittee, also pointed toward the other side of the aisle for the action, but still found it deeply misguided.

"The president has been dealt an unfortunate hand, and is taking actions today in spite of the consistent inaction of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to meaningfully address the challenges at our border," he said. "However, I'm concerned that this Executive Action to close the border -- without delivering protections and a pathway to citizenship for those who've lived and worked in this country for decades -- sets us back to square one and takes a page out of this years-old failed playbook that hurts our economy.

"Attempts like this, to 'close' the border, do nothing but put lives at risk and dampen our nation's economic prosperity," Correa continued. "We should be working on solutions like legal pathways to citizenship and additional personnel to manage trade and immigration at our ports of entry, and long-term solutions like creating good-paying jobs and reducing violence south of the border to address the root causes of the refugee challenge in our hemisphere."

Democratic California Sen. Alex Padilla's response

Democratic California Sen. Alex Padilla, chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, was less than bullish on the executive order.

"By reviving Trump's asylum ban, President Biden has undermined American values and abandoned our nation's obligations to provide people fleeing persecution, violence, and authoritarianism with an opportunity to seek refuge in the U.S.," he said. "This asylum ban will fail to address the challenges at our border, just as it did under the Trump administration. It will lead to people with legitimate asylum claims being prevented from seeking safety and returned to harm.

"What we need instead are smart and strategic investments to reduce backlogs and wait times, address the root causes of migration, and open lawful pathways to migration," Padilla said.

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond's response

San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said the rollout was a stunt.

"For years, the president has told the American public that there is nothing he can do to secure our nation's border. Yet today, he will announce an executive order that still allows thousands of illegal immigrants into the country," Desmond said. "The president will be handpicking mayors for his announcement from border communities that have seen a significant decrease in crossings, blatantly ignoring the larger crisis.

"If the president truly cared about securing the border, he would come to San Diego and see the more than 150,000 people who have been released on our streets or the 52,000 Special Interest Aliens who have crossed into San Diego," Desmond said. "This administration's disregard for our safety and security is appalling. The reality here in San Diego is dire, and the president's empty gestures do nothing to address the ongoing crisis. We need urgent, comprehensive action, not more political theater."

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa's response

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of San Diego County, also criticized the proposal.

"Biden’s allies call today’s proposal a “crackdown.” Left out of that spin is the fact that this new order only goes into effect after illegal border crossings reach 2,500 per day – almost one million per year. Some crackdown," the statement read, in part.

Several border mayors -- primarily from Texas -- were invited to Washington for Biden's announcement. However, the lack of San Diego County representation didn't sit well with some.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Well's response

"This is nothing but a sham and an insult to those of us dealing with the real consequences of his failed border policies," said El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, who is running for California's 51st Congressional District seat. "San Diego is the epicenter of illegal immigration. Yesterday alone, we faced over 1,300 encounters.

"If President Biden truly cared about securing our borders, he would come to San Diego, see the chaos himself, and take decisive action to shut down the border," Wells said. "Instead, he hides behind a staged meeting in Washington, D.C., hoping to score political points for his re-election campaign."

“The cynical part of me believes that if he were to win, that the moment he does, we're going to go back to this basically open border policy," Wells said.

Under the order, people can still claim asylum through formal means, at ports of entry, using the CBP One app to schedule an appointment.

Padilla said Biden stood on a precipice that could impact millions of lives.

"I urge President Biden to live up to his pledge to restore our nation's 'moral standing in the world and our historic role as a haven for refugees and asylum seekers,"' Padilla said. "And I encourage the president to use his executive authority to provide relief to American families including Dreamers, caregivers, and undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens who deserve better than to continue to live in the shadows."

Democratic Rep. Mike Levin's response

Rep. Mike Levin praised Biden's move while insisting that Congress must still work together to advance a bipartisan border security and immigration bill.

“I applaud President Biden for issuing a set of executive actions to strengthen border security while also ensuring we keep families together and crack down on those profiting from human smuggling. But make no mistake, executive actions are no substitute for Congressional action. Congress must work together to advance a bipartisan border security and immigration bill,

"We need safe, legal and orderly ways for people to claim asylum, to have those asylum claims adjudicated in a timely manner and ultimately to be positive contributing members of our society and our economy,

“I’m optimistic President Biden’s new executive actions will make a meaningful difference in some of the challenges we face at the border and in California’s 49th Congressional district. However, there is much more to do, and the House must consider strong legislation such as the Dignity Act – the most comprehensive immigration reform bill in recent memory," Levin said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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