President Joe Biden is reportedly considering using a new executive action to stem the flow of illegal migrants crossing into the U.S., a move experts say would do little to actually move the needle on the border crisis.

Biden said this week he is “examining” whether or not to take executive action and raise asylum standards, making it more difficult for illegal migrants to claim the status and come into the country, according to Axios. The policy could be beneficial, but is only one aspect of a multi-faceted approach that is needed to address the immigration crisis; moreover, what Biden is considering is likely a ploy to appear tough on the border to voters ahead of an election year, immigration and homeland security experts told the DCNF.

Immigration has overtaken inflation as the top issue in voters’ minds going into the 2024 elections, according to a Harvard CAPS-Harris poll released on Mar. 25. Almost 70% of voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of illegal immigration and the southern border crisis, per an AP-NORC poll from Mar. 29.

“If Biden confines his executive action to just tweaking the asylum laws, that is meaningless if he continues to wave people in on parole and hand them an indefinite work permit,” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), told the DCNF. “While it’s fair to say that it would help if Congress were to act… the most impactful actions must come from the president. These include shutting down the catch-and-release policies, imposing consequences for illegal border crossing, ceasing the issuance of work permits, and allowing [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to do their job in the interior.”

Immigration parole programs, which allow a noncitizen without a visa to come into the country temporarily, have been dramatically expanded since Biden took office in 2021; over 2 million migrants have been granted parole under the Biden administration, compared to roughly 300,000 under the Trump administration, according to The Washington Post. The Biden administration is also expanding its provision of work permits to both asylum seekers and green card applicants.

So many illegal immigrants have entered the country that it has created a backlog of over 3 million asylum claims in immigration courts, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. It can take years for just a single claim to be litigated, and immigration judges nationwide have an average backlog of over 4,500 claims each.

“If he wanted to make it harder to abuse the asylum system, he has the power to do that now, and he has had it all along, but chose not to use it,” Vaughan told the DCNF. “This is all for show, and he and his advisors are kidding themselves if they think this will work to reverse the loss of public trust in his administration.”

Illegal immigration has surged under the Biden administration. There were over 2 million migrant encounters at the southern border in fiscal year 2023, compared to roughly 1.6 million in fiscal year 2021, according to Customs and Border Protection data.

Tweaking asylum policies will only go so far in solving a much bigger problem, Steven Camarota, director of research at CIS, told the DCNF. Camarota underscored the need to pressure other countries such as Mexico into imposing stricter illegal immigration policies within their own borders.

“Reforming asylum law could help, but you’d have to actually deny people and then send them home right away, and then publicize this in the sending countries. For that to happen, you’d have to detain people, which we are not doing in so many cases,” Camarota told the DCNF. “Recreating the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, getting cooperation from Central American countries again, ramping up interior enforcement, and most of all using detention significantly more, are all at least as important as changing the credible fear criteria.  But the administration, as far as I know, is not talking about those things.”

Moreover, the specific asylum policy Biden is looking at — Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act — would likely be legally challenged and stonewalled by the courts, Elizabeth Jacobs, director of regulatory affairs and policy at CIS, told the DCNF. Biden is likely anticipating this but doesn’t care — he can claim he did his best and then turn the blame back on Congress, Jacobs added.

“The entire purpose of such an executive order appears to be to fool American voters,” Jacobs told the DCNF. “By issuing a 212f proclamation or an additional regulation purporting to restrict asylum eligibility, the administration can anticipate a bad court ruling from the Ninth Circuit.”

“At that point, President Biden will have cover to tell voters that ‘he tried’ to address the border crisis, but will ultimately blame Congress for not acting to change our laws,” Jacobs told the DCNF. “At the same time, the Biden administration will keep its policies that restrict officers’ ability to enforce the laws that are already on the books and allow inadmissible aliens to be paroled en masse into the U.S., directly violating the laws Congress passed to regulate immigration.”

Biden has refrained from using executive action on the border, except during the inception of his presidency, when he signed a flurry of orders nullifying Trump-era policies, including halting the construction of the border wall and easing up deportation policies. After the illegal immigration crisis ensued, he blamed Republican lawmakers for stonewalling legislation that he claimed would have given him sweeping authority to act.

“No one should believe that President Biden is going to reverse or moderate any of his border or immigration policies until they see it. He has had these policies for three years now, and three years to see the problems and hear the concerns of people in communities around the country that are struggling to cope with the consequences,” Vaughan told the DCNF. “What would motivate him to change anything now?”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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