Florence Project Dismayed and Outraged by Biden Administration’s Border Executive Order

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project condemns in the strongest possible terms the Biden administration’s latest Executive Order restricting access to asylum at the border and renews its calls for positive, proactive policy solutions to address the challenges we face at the southern border.  

The order enacts an expulsion authority that would mandate closing the border when the number of encounters passes a daily threshold, a provision very similar to the Bipartisan Border Bill which the Florence Project opposed and which failed to pass through Congress earlier this year. The administration would exercise Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which gives the president authority to bar migrants from entry if it would be “detrimental” to U.S. national interest. This is the same authority that former President Trump used for his administration’s Muslim ban in 2017.  

“This is disgraceful,” said Laura St. John, Florence Project Legal Director. “President Biden promised on the campaign trail to restore humanity to our immigration system, and instead, he is choosing to slam the door to safety shut to those who need protection most. Like previous expulsion policies, this will result in families being separated and put the lives of people seeking asylum in grave danger.  

“Enacting an on-off expulsion policy like this will do nothing to address the significant challenges we face at the border. Generally, deterrence policies do not work because people seeking asylum don’t have any other options when seeking protection from grave persecution, but this so-called solution will be particularly ineffective because the status of asylum processing at the border will change with little-to-no notice. It will create the very conditions of confusion and instability in which cartels and transnational criminal organizations thrive. It’s absurd to bar access to asylum simply because an arbitrary number of people are seeking protection – people who need protection need protection, regardless of how many other people are seeking asylum at the same time.”  

We urge the President to instead pursue policy solutions that would provide support to people in need and achieve the Biden administration’s goals at the border:  

  1. Protect people seeking asylum at the U.S. border: Providing timely access to safety at ports of entry is one of the most effective ways to reduce irregular border crossing. The Biden administration should increase staffing at ports of entry to enable ports to process more migrants each day. 
  1. Invest in legal representation for all people who are navigating an immigration case: People with legal representation almost always show up for their court dates, and legal representation improves the orderly function of the court system and case outcomes in every measurable way, reducing backlogs by ensuring that immigrants have access to a meaningful process for their claims from the beginning.  
  1. Make the immigration system fairer and more efficient: Massive backlogs, caused by years of underfunding, force people to wait in limbo for months or years for results in their cases. The government should invest in properly staffing immigration courts and USCIS offices to fairly and timely decide cases and should eliminate red tape that prevents people from working lawfully to support themselves while going through their legal process.   
  1. Fund shelters and humanitarian reception sites: The government should better fund nonprofits providing humanitarian reception services for recently arrived migrants. Up-front, consistent funding, instead of the reimbursement models that currently exist, would allow organizations to plan and more effectively provide food, shelter, and transitional services to people even as overall migration patterns shift over time. This would also connect people to community-based legal services and support programs rather than punitive, expensive, and inhumane immigration detention. 

The Florence Project continues to call on the Biden administration and all our elected leaders to stand firm in our values and with the majority of Americans who support a robust, functional asylum system and choose policies that center the humanity of migrants and welcome people seeking asylum with dignity.