Biden Administration Considers Implementing Measures Independently to Address Border Migrant Influx, Bypassing Congress

Biden administration weighs taking specific actions without Congress to stem the migrant flow at the border

The Biden administration is contemplating independent measures, bypassing Congress, to tighten the initial screening process for asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border and to expedite the deportation of recently arrived migrants who fail to meet the eligibility criteria, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the discussions.

These proposed actions, still in the stages of deliberation and weeks away from finalization, aim to curb the influx of migrants crossing the southern border unlawfully amidst heightened concerns over immigration, a pivotal issue for voters leading up to the 2024 presidential election.

Under the prospective policies, asylum officers would receive directives to heighten the standards applied during “credible fear interviews,” the preliminary assessments conducted for asylum-seekers seeking protection from deportation due to illegal border crossings.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be instructed to prioritize the deportation of recently arrived migrants, adopting a “last in, first out” approach, as outlined by the officials.

Biden
Biden (Credits: The New York Times)

A congressional staffer familiar with the discussions indicated that while the Biden administration has yet to make a definitive decision, the prospect of raising the bar for asylum claims and expediting deportations of newcomers are viewed as relatively straightforward measures that could be swiftly implemented.

However, the officials noted uncertainty regarding whether these policies would be enacted through executive orders or new federal regulations, processes that could extend over several months.

While the notions of tightening asylum criteria and hastening deportations are not novel, they are being reconsidered with greater seriousness as the Biden administration seeks to address border challenges, particularly after Republican resistance impeded border security measures in the National Security Supplemental bill earlier in the month.

An administration official affirmed that the White House is exploring a range of policy options but cautioned against assuming any definite action at this stage.

In response to inquiries, a White House spokesperson highlighted the administration’s extensive efforts to negotiate a bipartisan border security bill, expressing disappointment over Republican opposition and emphasizing the limitations of executive actions compared to congressional legislation in effecting substantial policy reforms and resource allocations.

However, without the passage of such a bill, any unilateral actions by the president would be constrained, given the Department of Homeland Security’s funding shortfall.

ICE currently faces a budget deficit exceeding $500 million and risks curtailing essential services by May without additional congressional funding, as reported by sources to NBC News last week.

One DHS official expressed reservations about the “last in, first out” deportation policy, citing concerns over the prolonged legal uncertainty it would impose on millions of migrants already residing in the U.S., including homeless migrants in major urban centers, whose immigration cases would be relegated to the backlog.

A DHS spokesperson underscored the urgent need for Congress to act to safeguard border enforcement efforts, emphasizing the repercussions of inadequate funding on the agency’s capacity to enforce immigration laws effectively.

The spokesperson urged congressional action to provide the necessary resources and tools for frontline personnel to fulfill their responsibilities.