The Biden Administration’s new executive order on immigration has many Latino families worried. Joe Biden signed an order Tuesday that will temporarily close the U.S.-Mexico border to asylum seekers. The order affects those attempting to cross between legal ports of entry when a daily threshold of crossings is exceeded.

According to senior administration officials, the order will take effect immediately. They also explained the government will apply much more rigorous standards to establish credible fear of returning to the country of origin. Some groups, such as victims of human trafficking and unaccompanied children, will be excluded from the ban.

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Biden blamed congressional Republicans for leaving them with “no choice” but to take these steps.

“So today, I’m stepping over Republican obstruction and using the executive authority at my disposal as president to do what I can on my own to deal with the border,” Biden said. “Doing nothing is not an option. We have to act.”

But what does the immigration measure really mean?

Contrary to what the mainstream media seems to believe, applying for asylum in the United States is tremendously challenging. As Diana Pliego of the National Immigration Law Center explained, “The barriers to seeking safety in this country have only increased in recent years.” For Pliego, Biden’s executive action is “extreme and cruel” and “will subject families to even greater harm.”

“The action will effectively close the U.S.-Mexico border to thousands of people fleeing danger and attempting to follow U.S. asylum law to seek safety in this country,” she added. “The United States has for generations been a haven for those fleeing danger and persecution, and we have a moral and legal obligation to welcome asylum seekers.”

For Pliego, who conducts policy research and tracks legislation, the Biden administration’s move “echoes extremist rhetoric about immigrants and contributes to the dangerous scapegoating of immigrant communities in this country.”

“It is unconscionable, and history will not look kindly on this decision,” she added.

Image used with permission from Diana Pliego. Courtesy of Reuters.

A confusing and counterproductive message

For her part, Mónica Ramírez, president and founder of Justice for Migrant Women, said President Biden’s announcement “only makes the situation more confusing and dire for some.”

“The message fails to appreciate the desperate reality of migrants who go across borders because they are forced to move for a myriad of reasons, including gender-based violence, economic insecurity, and climate change,” she said. “Our legal system is often confusing for those who come to our country.”

Moreover, for Ramirez, the Biden Administration’s message underscores that “our country’s leaders lack the political courage to address the real problem that exists.”

“Our immigration laws and system have been flawed from the moment they were created. There will be no solution to this situation until Congress passes new and fair immigration laws in the United States. Until then, migrants will continue to have incredibly limited access to legal avenues of protection and relief.”

The impact of Biden’s new immigration policy may be long-lasting

While the decision to close the border with Mexico will not immediately impact people who are already in the U.S. or who have pending asylum claims, what it will do is generate confusion and anxiety in the immigrant community.

“Every time the White House uses the ‘ban the immigrants’ frame, it increases fear and the erosion of trust in government,” Ramirez explained. “We cannot expect members of the immigrant community to feel welcomed or access the limited resources available to them with strongly anti-immigrant messages and actions coming from U.S. leaders.”

For her part, Pliego explained that the government’s action will directly result in the “immediate deportation” of asylum seekers whenever the number of people crossing between ports of entry at the border exceeds the arbitrary figure of 2,500.

Image used with permission from Justice For Migrant Women.

“With this action, the Biden administration is slamming the door on people seeking safety and forcing families to return to countries where they face danger and persecution,” she added.

Pliego warned that the measure “hurts all of us,” adding that “immigrants help build this nation and move our country forward.”

“When politicians try to scapegoat immigrant communities instead of offering real solutions, it hurts families across the country,” Pliego said. “Nearly 1 in 10 U.S. citizen children live in a mixed-status family, where one parent or other family member is undocumented. Because immigrants and the U.S.-born live together in families and communities, it is not possible to target immigrants without also harming U.S.-born residents.”

How can we help those at risk of not reaching safe land?

For both immigration specialists, the problem is not about arrival flow but resource management. “The United States has the resources and capacity to support a just system that welcomes people with dignity,” Pliego said. “It is currently wasting those resources on failed and inhumane deterrence policies. We all need to remember that our immigration policy does not have to be this way and that there are popular and practical solutions that our government could choose to implement.”

Pliego asserts that people must make their voices heard to support “humane immigration policies.” These include timely and fair processing of asylum applications, expansion of legal avenues, and support for cities that welcome our new neighbors.

Ramirez, for her part, agrees. “We must not fail each other, even when our legal system and our politics fail so abysmally,” she concluded. “Right now, the most important things we can do include donating to groups that provide help on the ground, supporting legal organizations that provide information to the community, and raising our voices to our political leaders to make the changes necessary for a fair immigration system.”