Biden Will Announce New Border Policies to Reduce Illegal Crossings
WASHINGTON — President Biden on Thursday will announce new plans to allow up to 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti to legally enter the United States each month, while also drastically cracking down on people who seek refuge by crossing the border with Mexico, administration officials said.
The president is expected to announce the policies in remarks on Thursday morning, days before a two-day summit meeting in Mexico City. The changes come as the Biden administration is under increasing pressure to confront surges at the southern border that are overwhelming communities, nonprofit organizations and government facilities.
The situation at the border has become an increasingly difficult political problem for Mr. Biden as his adversaries seize on immigration issues. House Republicans have promised to begin investigations into the administration’s handling of the border and to start impeachment proceedings against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary.
The new policies are an attempt by the administration to make good on the president’s promise of a humane but secure border. But they fall far short of a complete overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, which Mr. Biden proposed to Congress on the day he took office. Officials said the president would renew his call for congressional action in his remarks on Thursday.
Under the new immigration rules, administration officials said, people in the four countries will be allowed to apply for entry to the United States using an app on their phones while still in their home countries. If they can find a sponsor — a relative, church or nonprofit group — pass a security screening and pay for the flight, they will be allowed to live and work legally in the United States.
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Migrants from those countries who seek to travel to the United States by passing through Mexico would be automatically ineligible for the new program.
The administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity during a briefing before the president’s remarks, said the program would drastically lessen the need for people from those countries to make the dangerous journey from their countries and across the border with Mexico. An earlier program that applied only to Venezuelans reduced the number of migrants from that country at the border significantly, the officials said.
But as many as 9,000 migrants try to cross the southern border every day, officials said, and it remains unclear how many of the people from the four countries will be able or willing to take advantage of the new program.
Administration officials said that Mr. Biden would also triple the number of refugees that the United States accepts each year from the Western Hemisphere, to 20,000. The refugee program is a separate way for people who are fleeing persecution to apply to come to the United States legally.
Mr. Biden will also announce an increase in the use of tougher enforcement measures at the border, which will allow agents to more quickly expel migrants trying to cross between the ports of entry, officials said.
Immigrant rights advocates say the measures, known as expedited removal, deny people their rights to due process and are used as a way to prevent them from making legitimate claims for asylum, which are guaranteed by U.S. and international law.
The Biden administration has also been considering whether to embrace a restrictive policy developed under former President Donald J. Trump, in which migrants who travel through a third country, such as Mexico, can be prevented from seeking asylum in the United States unless they have applied for asylum in another country first.
Advocates view that policy as another way of shutting down access to asylum for people fleeing violence, political instability and economic disasters.
It was not clear whether Mr. Biden planned to announce the use of that program in his remarks. Mr. Mayorkas is scheduled to hold a news conference later on Thursday to announce new enforcement measures.
Officials said the new border policies would take effect right away. The government is currently under court orders to quickly expel most migrants under Title 42, a public health rule put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.
But the officials said they intended to continue with the new border policies if courts allowed the enforcement of Title 42 to end, as the administration intends. The Supreme Court is considering a challenge by Republican-led states to the administration’s plan to stop enforcing Title 42.