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Biden introduces limit on US-Mexico asylum

US President Joe Biden issued an executive order on 4 June vastly curtailing asylum access and paving the way for people crossing the US-Mexico border irregularly to be rapidly deported. The move comes ahead of presidential elections in November in which immigration is a hot button issue.

Under the new order, when the daily average of people apprehended irregularly crossing the border exceeds 2,500, immigration officials will immediately deport those who do not express a fear of returning to their home country – a process that could take a number of hours or days.

People who do express a fear of returning to their home country will be screened by an immigration official using a procedure that is more stringent than the current protocol. Those whose fears are deemed credible still won’t be able to apply for asylum, but they will be able to qualify for more limited forms of protection. 

The number of people crossing the US-Mexico border irregularly has decreased in recent months, largely due to stepped-up immigration enforcement by Mexican authorities. But the daily average of border apprehensions (around 3,700 per day in May) is still above the threshold set by Biden’s executive order, meaning the new measures will come into effect immediately and stay in place until the daily average of apprehensions drops below 1,500 for two weeks in a row.  

Human rights groups have decried Biden’s executive order and have vowed to challenge its legality in court.

A number of overlapping crises in Latin America and elsewhere have been driving an increasing number of people to undertake dangerous irregular journeys to try to reach the United States in recent years. Different US presidential administrations have responded by implementing a variety of harsh policies aimed at trying to reduce migration. 

As a result, tens of thousands of people have ended up stranded for prolonged periods of time in vulnerable living conditions in northern Mexican border cities, exposed to exploitation and abuse by authorities and cartels. For more, read: 

At the center of the image is a woman bending at the waist cooking in a makeshift fire. Behind her are makeshift tents. There are trees in the background.

How the US-Mexico border became an unrelenting humanitarian crisis

Local aid organisations are struggling to keep pace with soaring needs in northern Mexico with little outside support and dwindling resources.

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