Why is President Joe Biden claiming to close the US-Mexico border?

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US President Joe Biden has made strong statements in recent days about closing the US-Mexico border as he tries to salvage a border deal in Congress that would also unlock money for Ukraine .

The deal had been in the works for months and appeared close to being finalized in the Senate before it began to fall apart, largely because Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump didn’t want it to happen .

“A bipartisan bill would be good for America and help fix our broken immigration system and provide rapid access to those who deserve to be here, and Congress must do it,” Biden said this weekend. end.

“It will also give me, as president, emergency authority to close the border until it can regain control. If this bill had become law today, I would close the border now and I’ll fix it quickly.”

Here’s what you need to know about Biden’s tough talk and the politics and policy considerations at play.

A man carrying a baby wades in shallow water near barbed wire, followed by another man in a green uniform.
Migrants crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico are stopped by authorities at the Texas-Mexico border on January 3. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Why is Biden talking tough about the border?

Biden wants continued funding for Ukraine in the face of Russian invasion in February 2022. Senate Republicans had initially said they would not consider additional funds for kyiv unless it was combined with an agreement to manage the southern border of the country.

As negotiations progressed, Biden embraced efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement on border security after years of stalemate in overhauling the immigration system.

But his statement that he would close the border “immediately” if Congress passes the proposed deal is more politics than politics.

He seeks to disarm criticism of his handling of migration at the border, as immigration becomes a growing concern for Americans as the presidential election approaches.

WATCH | The United States is pushing Mexico to adopt migration measures:

U.S., Mexican officials discuss migrant influx

Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have outlined a list of measures they would like Mexico to take to respond to the thousands of migrants crossing into the United States every day.

Could the US-Mexico border actually close?

No. Commerce would continue and citizens and legal residents could continue to travel back and forth.

Biden is referring to an expulsion authority being negotiated by lawmakers that would automatically take effect on days when irregular border crossings reach more than 5,000 on a five-day average across the southern border, which is currently seeing up ‘to 10,000 passages per day.

A line of large shipping containers, topped with barbed wire, stands along a river bank.
A section of shipping containers and barbed wire that Texas installed to deter migrants sits on the bank of the Rio Grande in Shelby Park on January 26. (Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)

The authority ends asylum checks for those who cross the border irregularly.

Migrants could still apply at ports of entry until the number of crossings fell below 3,750 per day.

But these are only estimates, and the final tally has not yet been established.

Efforts are also being made to change the processing of asylum cases, which can take several years to resolve.

WATCH | Why a Texas city declared a state of emergency over migrant crossings:

Texas town overwhelmed by migrants declares state of emergency

Eagle Pass, Texas, declared a state of emergency after being overwhelmed by thousands of people who crossed the border illegally from Mexico.

What happened when Trump made a similar threat?

Trump has pledged to “shut down” the U.S.-Mexico border entirely — including to trade and traffic — in an effort to force Mexico to do more to stem the flow of migrants.

But he didn’t follow up.

But the speech was heavily criticized by Democrats, who called it draconian and xenophobic.

Trump’s closest moment came during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he used emergency authorities to severely limit asylum. But trade and trafficking continued.

Does Biden have the power to close the border?

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Trump ally and critic of the proposed deal, argued that presidents already have enough authority to end irregular border crossings.

Biden could, in theory, sharply limit asylum applications and restrict crossings, but that effort would almost certainly be challenged in court and would be far more likely to be blocked or dramatically reduced without a congressional law supporting the new changes.

A white pickup truck parked in front of a metal fence with an orange forklift parked behind it and several white trailers in the background.
Texas Department of Public Safety officers work in a fenced area at Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Jan. 11. (Sam Owens/The San Antonio Express-News/The Associated Press)

What immigration policies has Biden already implemented?

Biden’s embrace of the congressional framework shows how the administration’s efforts to implement a broader immigration overhaul have been stymied.

On his first day in office, Biden sent a comprehensive immigration proposal to Congress and signed more executive orders than Trump.

Since then, he has taken more than 500 executive actions, according to a tally by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization.

His administration’s approach has been to combine new humanitarian pathways for migrants with a border crackdown aimed at discouraging migrants from making the dangerous journey to the U.S.-US border on foot. Mexico and instead travel by plane with a sponsor.

Some policies were successful, but the number of crossings continued to increase.

WATCH | Why the impasse over Ukraine’s border measures and funding:

In US Senate deadlock that could condemn Ukraine funding | About that

A fight over border security measures has left increasing aid to Ukraine on hold. Andrew Chang explains what’s behind the Senate impasse and what it could mean for Ukraine’s future.

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