WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled a plan that would result in immediate, and noticeable, restrictions on the number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border who are allowed to seek asylum.

The White House detailed the presidential proclamation signed by Biden, which would bar migrants from being granted asylum under certain circumstances – specifically when U.S. officials deem that the southern border is overwhelmed.

The Democratic president has contemplated solo action since the collapse of a bipartisan border security deal in Congress.

The order will go into effect when the number of border encounters between ports of entry hits 2,500 per day, according to senior administration officials. That means Biden’s order should go into effect immediately, because that figure is higher than the daily averages now.

The restrictions would be in effect until two weeks after the daily encounter numbers are at or below 1,500 per day between ports of entry, under a seven-day average.

Once this order is in effect, migrants who arrive at the border but do not express fear of returning to their home countries will be subject to immediate removal from the United States, within a matter of days or even hours. Those migrants would face punishments that could include a five-year bar from reentering the U.S., as well as potential criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile, anyone who expresses that fear or intention to seek asylum will be screened by a U.S. asylum officer but at a higher standard than what is currently used. If they pass the screening, they can pursue more limited forms of humanitarian protection, including the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

The directive is coming when the number of migrants encountered at the border have been on a consistent decline since December, but senior administration officials nonetheless justified the order by arguing that the numbers are still too high and that the figures could spike in better weather, when the encounter numbers traditionally increase.

The legal authority being invoked comes under Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows a president to limit entries for certain migrants if it’s deemed “detrimental” to the national interest.

Senior officials expressed confidence that they would be able to implement Biden’s order, despite threats from prominent legal groups to sue the administration over the directive.

The senior administration officials insisted that Biden’s proposal differs dramatically from that of former president Donald Trump, who leaned on the same provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act that Biden is using, including his 2017 directive to bar citizens of Muslim-majority nations and his efforts in 2018 to clamp down on asylum.

For instance, Biden’s order outlines several groups of migrants who would be exempted due to humanitarian reasons, such as victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied minors and those with severe medical emergencies.

The directive would also exempt migrants who arrive in what senior officials called an orderly fashion, which includes people who make appointments with border officials at ports of entry using the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s CBP One app. About 1,450 appointments are made a day using the app, which launched last year.

The last time the border encounters dipped to 1,500 a day was in July 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congressional Republicans, who almost all rejected the Senate’s bipartisan border proposal earlier this year, dismissed Biden’s order as nothing more than a “political stunt” meant to show toughened immigration enforcement ahead of the election.

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