President Biden’s asylum executive order is unacceptable

Jun 7, 2024

Refugee family with children walking at night with bags, illegal border crossing near a river.

By Mel Wilson, NASW Senior Policy Advisor

President Joe Biden on June 3 issued an Executive Order (EO) to temporarily suspend the processing of most asylum claims at the southern U.S. border when the seven-day average of unauthorized crossings exceeds 2,500 people. The executive order, which became effectively immediately, declares that:

  • Unless there are exceptional circumstances, migrants who cross the Mexican border without authorization would not be eligible for asylum and will be subject to expedited removal.
  • There is a stricter interpretation of the credible fear provision – being afraid of persecution or torture in their native country –  for granting an asylum hearing.

As reported, the Biden administration has been under significant pressure to “do something” about the so-called burden of migrants on the nation’s resources – which by many accounts is overstated. It is without a doubt that Biden’s executive order was issued in response to those pressures. However, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is deeply disappointed that Biden chose such stringent measures to achieve that objective. We think the measures as articulated in the executive order are unacceptable.

This is a policy that has a singular objective of closing the U.S. border to individuals and families seeking asylum from violence and oppression. Therefore, the administration should not be surprised that advocates for communities impacted by the order are rightfully apprehensive about the consequences of the policy. This is especially true given that it is fully legal for refugees to seek asylum once they enter the country, yet the Biden administration’s executive order appears to disregard  that fact.

For those reasons, it is clear to NASW that President Biden must commit to doing all that is necessary to prevent and mitigate all unintended consequences of his executive order – chief among which are consequences that lead to family separation.

In addition, the administration must aggressively reassure immigrant families and individuals – such as dreamers – that the EO is not an indication that the administration has abandoned its commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. The Biden Administration must fulfill its promise to immigrant communities, and uphold the values of health, dignity, and justice.

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