On Tuesday, President Joe Biden issued an executive order prohibiting migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border during surges in crossings. This dramatic election-year move aims to alleviate pressure on the immigration system and address a significant voter concern.

“We must face a simple truth. To protect America as a land that welcomes immigrants, we must first secure the border and secure it now,” Biden announced at the White House, joined by lawmakers and mayors from border communities.

Since taking office, the Biden administration has frequently discussed plans to implement stricter border policies, an issue for which Biden has faced consistent criticism.

In February, Biden backed a bipartisan border security bill tied to Ukraine aid, featuring some of the most significant restrictions Congress had considered in years. However, Republicans, under pressure from former President Donald Trump to deny Biden a legislative victory in an election year, blocked the bill, arguing it was not strong enough.

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In remarks at the White House, Biden explained that he was forced to take executive action after Republicans blocked the February bill. He noted that the executive order mirrors the blocked registration; however, he emphasized that legislation would have been preferable for its durability and reduced vulnerability to court challenges.

Under the order, the new system aims to deter illegal crossings and prevent court backlogs, ensuring asylum seekers have timely opportunities to plead their cases.

The border will reopen to migrants only when crossings significantly decrease. There are an average of 4,000 daily border crossings; for the border to reopen, this number must drop below  1,500 per day for seven days in a row. The border would then reopen to migrants two weeks later.

However, the order provides exceptions to minors who cross the border alone, victims of human trafficking and those who use a Customs and Border Protection app to schedule an appointment with a border officer to request asylum.

The order suspends long-standing guarantees that grant anyone who enters the U.S. the right to seek asylum.

This is the most restrictive border policy issued by Biden or any modern Democrat, marking a stark reversal for Biden, who entered office criticizing Trump’s restrictive asylum policies. Critics argue that this echoes Trump’s 2018 attempts to cut off migration, which was later blocked in federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) already announced its plans to challenge the order in court.

“The administration has left us little choice but to sue,” said Lee Gelernt, an ACLU lawyer who led charges against Trump’s 2018 attempt to block asylum. “It was unlawful under Trump and is no less illegal now.”

Polls indicate bipartisan support for border measures as the influx of people entering the country hits record highs. This places significant pressure on Biden to address the issue, which has long been his political vulnerability.

Although efforts in December to pressure Mexico into mitigating migration helped reduce crossing numbers, the urgency to act has heightened upon Trump’s frequent discussions of implementing stringent border policies in a potential second term.

Prominent Republicans have criticized Biden’s efforts on social media, calling his order “nothing more than a desperate political stunt” and “a band-aid solution for a gaping wound.”

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