Can Joe Biden 'shut down' the Texas border? - Hindustan Times
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Can Joe Biden 'shut down' the Texas border?

Jan 31, 2024 12:11 PM IST

Joe Biden's border closure proposal raises worries among officials, Mexico skeptical.

President Joe Biden’s claim that he wants to have the power to “shut down” the border has raised some alarm among current and former officials at the Department of Homeland Security.

Members of the Texas National Guard place razor wire near the fence on the border with Mexico to inhibit the crossing of migrants into the U.S., as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico January 23, 2024. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez(REUTERS)
Members of the Texas National Guard place razor wire near the fence on the border with Mexico to inhibit the crossing of migrants into the U.S., as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico January 23, 2024. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez(REUTERS)

Biden said at a campaign event in South Carolina on Saturday that a bill with new border security measures is close to being agreed upon by both parties.

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He also said that as president, he would have the emergency power to close the border until it is under control. He added that he would do that right away and fix the situation quickly if the bill was already law.

He repeated this idea in a statement he released on Friday night, saying he would close the border if necessary “the day I sign the bill into law.”

According to an NBC report on the negotiations, the bill would require DHS to close the border if the average number of migrants encountered per day reaches 5,000 over a week or if 8,500 migrants cross in one day.

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During a closure, only 1,400 undocumented migrants per day would be allowed to enter legally through ports of entry. The border would not reopen until the number of migrants encountered drops below 75% of the number that caused the closure and stays there for at least a week. Then, DHS would have two weeks to reopen the border gradually. The sources said this level of restriction could keep the border closed for months.

What's the situation at the border

Right now, Border Patrol agents catch and process migrants who cross the southern border and release about 85% of them into the U.S. with dates to appear in front of an immigration judge who will decide if they get asylum or are sent back to their home countries. Mexico has agreed to accept 30,000 migrants per month from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba, but many more than that are coming into the U.S. from those countries.

Two current and two former DHS officials say that the U.S. would need Mexico to cooperate and take back more migrants if it wants to close the border and stop asylum-seekers.

The official from the administration said that the president wants Congress to pass a bipartisan deal that provides new tools and more resources to secure the border. The official said that those extra resources are essential for their abilities, and that is why the president asked for them in his extra budget request.

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One former official said that it is impossible to send back 8,000 migrants a day without Mexico’s consent. The former official said that this would cause panic and pressure in the weak parts of the border.

Some parts of the border that have been vulnerable before are isolated areas of Arizona, like Lukeville, and Del Rio, Texas, where more than 10,000 Haitians gathered in 2021 and overwhelmed Border Patrol’s resources.

The officials confirmed that there is some worry about the proposal and said that similar measures used during Title 42, the COVID policy that was supposed to prevent asylum-seekers from crossing, did not last long.

López Obrador feels skeptical

On Monday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reacted to Biden’s statements that he would close the border. He was doubtful about the idea, blamed it on the talk that happens around every U.S. election and asked that Mexico and the U.S. “act with tranquillity.”

“Because there are elections! Once the elections pass, there’s another agenda. But we, the Mexicans, need to recognize this background. Politically it’s time. We are in a special time, in Mexico and the United States.”

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