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Biden is expected to announce new asylum rules for migrants at the border

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Large number of asylum seekers at the southern border has become a political headache for President Biden in this election year.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

A few months ago, a bipartisan group of senators worked with the White House to negotiate a compromise that would have addressed this issue, but Republicans walked away from the deal.

MARTIN: So today, President Biden is expected to announce actions he will take through executive order, and he has invited several mayors of border cities to join him at the White House. NPR Immigration Correspondent Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is joining us this morning to tell us more about this. Good morning, Sergio.

SERGIO MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: Do we have any details yet? Has the White House said anything publicly?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: So we don't know much about it yet, but we do know, Michel, that ever since the Senate failed to pass a measure, the White House has said it would consider taking executive action. And the Biden administration has been piecemealing restrictions for the last few weeks. For example, he recently announced a new rule intended to speed up the removal of some migrants who are not eligible for asylum. And what Biden is expected to announce today would also limit asylum claims. The expectation is that Biden will invoke and rely on - and bear with me here because it's going to sound clunky - Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. I talked to Lily Axelrod, who is an immigration attorney based in Memphis, Tenn. Here's how she described it.

LILY AXELROD: So Section 212(f) is a fairly broad provision that grants the president authority to restrict immigration and visitors - nonimmigrant visitors from coming into the United States when he thinks - or she thinks that they're detrimental to the interests of the United States.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: In the past, this section has been used on the grounds of national security. The provision would also allow the president to suspend entries once the number of unauthorized crossings reaches a certain daily threshold. And this could be the most impactful border management policy to come out of this administration so far. But it's widely expected that it will face court challenges.

MARTIN: I got it. OK. So can you tell us how the southern border looks in terms of unauthorized crossings at the moment?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: I mean, it's way different than how it looked last year. Back then, we saw a record number of unauthorized crossings, and many of these migrants were seeking asylum. But those numbers have plummeted this year. And the reason for that, according to immigration policy analysts, is Mexico. Mexico has been cracking down on illegal migration at the urging of the U.S.

MARTIN: But at the same time, we know that border communities have been challenged by this influx of migrants going back - what is it? - sort of - some years now. You've been talking to mayors of these cities. What are they saying?

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: Well, I reached out to a bunch of border mayors, and some of them have been invited to today's announcement at the White House. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser will be there. He told me in a statement that his city is a welcoming place but that no community can continue the resources expended on this humanitarian crisis. So he says he's looking forward to hearing from Biden. We know that the mayors of San Diego, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., were also invited. And then, Michel, there are some mayors who say they were not invited, like the Mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas, a community that saw some of the highest number of unauthorized migrants last year. Mayor Rolando Salinas told me he wishes this policy rollout had been done back in December when his city saw about 2,000 to 3,000 migrants per day. He says, quote, "we won't forget those days."

MARTIN: Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is NPR immigration correspondent. Sergio, thank you.

MARTÍNEZ-BELTRÁN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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