Biden administration ready for court challenges to border policy, Mayorkas says

By Katharine Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s administration is prepared to defend in court the sweeping asylum policy put into place at the U.S.-Mexico border last week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday that generally bars migrants who illegally cross the southern border from claiming asylum and allows authorities to quickly deport or send migrants back to Mexico if the daily number of crossings exceeds 2,500. The asylum ban has exceptions for unaccompanied minors, people who face serious medical or safety threats, and victims of trafficking.

Mayorkas on Sunday said the administration was ready to defend the policy against an expected American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit.

“I respectfully disagree with the ACLU,” Mayorkas said. “We stand by the legality of what we have done. We stand by the value proposition. It’s not only a matter of securing the border, we have a humanitarian obligation to keep vulnerable people out of the hands of exploitative smugglers.”

The ACLU confirmed on Sunday it plans to sue.

“It was illegal when Trump did it, and it is no less illegal now,” ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project Deputy Director Lee Gelernt said in a statement.

Biden took office in 2021 vowing to reverse some of Republican Donald Trump’s restrictive policies but has grappled with record levels of migrants caught crossing the border illegally ahead of the Nov. 5 presidential election.

Mayorkas said initial indications showed the new policy was deterring some illegal immigration.

“It’s early. The signs are positive,” he said.

A U.S. border official told Reuters that authorities arrested around 3,100 people crossing illegally on Friday, down roughly 20% from the days before. The official requested anonymity to discuss preliminary figures.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who installed razor wire fencing along the Rio Grande and has seen a state law to enforce illegal crossings into his state blocked by a judge, told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” he thinks the policy is backfiring.

“All that this new Biden policy is going to do is to actually attract and invite even more people to cross the border illegally,” Abbott said.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)

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