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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Gloria Oladipo in New York

Progressives lambast Biden over potential move to restrict asylum

two people, one of whom is holding a child, cross a body of water
Migrants attempt to cross the Rio Grande toward the US on 19 February in Ciuaded Juarez, Mexico. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Progressive lawmakers and advocates on Thursday pushed back strongly against Joe Biden amid reports that the White House is weighing unilateral action to sharply restrict access to claim asylum at the US-Mexico border – comparing the move to the hardline strategies of Donald Trump when he was president.

The leading progressive congressional representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal criticized the US president for considering such executive action, while legislative efforts are stalled on Capitol Hill amid Republican resistance, after CNN first reported that Biden was considering the unilateral move.

“Doing Trump impressions isn’t how we beat Trump,” Ocasio-Cortez said of Biden’s potential action, in a post to X, formerly known as Twitter.

The White House is reportedly considering actions aside from congressional legislation to restrict migrants’ access to the right to ask for asylum in the US if they cross the border from Mexico between official ports of entry, usually without the right papers or an appointment with US authorities.

“Seeking asylum is a legal right of all people. In the face of authoritarian threat, we should not buckle on our principles – we should commit to them. The mere suggestion is outrageous and the President should refuse to sign it,” Ocasio-Cortez, who represents a New York district, added.

Jayapal, who is chair of Congressional Progressive Caucus and represents a district in Washington state, said that Biden would be making a “mistake” if he took such unilateral action to restrict asylum seekers.

“This would be an extremely disappointing mistake,” Jayapal said on X of Biden’s potential executive action.

“Democrats cannot continue to take pages out of Donald Trump and Stephen Miller’s playbook – we need to lead with dignity and humanity,” she added.

A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told CBS News that Biden’s potential executive action could probably face legal challenges from the ACLU and other immigration rights groups.

“An executive order denying asylum based on where one enters the country would just be another attempt at the exact policy Trump unsuccessfully tried and will undoubtedly end up in litigation,” ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt told CBS.

Amid more partisan takes, the South Carolina representative Jim Clyburn told CNN that he had concerns about Republicans “politicizing” the issue of immigration.

Clyburn did not comment on Biden’s potential executive action during an interview with CNN on Thursday morning. But Clyburn said that House Republicans had caused a bipartisan immigration bill to fail earlier this month.

“Why did they need this immigration issue as a political issue, rather than trying to solve the problem?” he added.

Several officials familiar with the White House discussions said to CNN and the Associated Press that no final decisions had been made.

In comments to CNN, a White House spokesperson did not address the potential executive action, but said that the White House was calling on Republicans to pass legislation that would address issues at the border.

“No executive action, no matter how aggressive, can deliver the significant policy reforms and additional resources Congress can provide and that Republicans rejected. We continue to call on Speaker Johnson and House Republicans to pass the bipartisan deal to secure the border,” White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández said in a statement.

The latest news comes as the Biden administration failed to pass the negotiated border bill , after Senate Republicans rejected the legislation.

Republicans complained that the bill did not go far enough to address undocumented migration at the border, which many want effectively shut down.

The Biden administration has received criticism from both political parties and negative feedback from voters responding to opinion polls on its handling of immigration issues, especially at the southern border.

Meanwhile, progressives have criticized the Biden administration for not fulfilling campaign promises from the 2020 presidential election to implement a more humane and streamlined immigration system.

Many municipal leaders, including Democrats, have also demanded help from the Biden administration to address an increase of arriving migrants as US cities struggle to accommodate them.

Immigration remains a central issue ahead of the 2024 presidential election, in which Biden and Trump are expected to be the nominees for their political parties.

A poll from earlier this month by Associated Press-NORC found that Republican and Democratic voters are increasingly concerned about immigration, the Associated Press reported.

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