We need safe pathways for asylum seekers and migrants, not border closures

The Biden Administration has largely closed the U.S.-Mexico border to most asylum seekers – an Executive Order that became effective today. The order recalls the Trump Administration’s actions to “close the border,” and is a transparent attempt to gain advantage in the 2024 Presidential race. While President Biden has criticized those Trump-era policies, and those of Texas Governor Abbott, calling them “cruel, dangerous, and inhumane,” he has taken these hostile and extraordinary steps in defiance of U.S. law and international policies and obligations to provide access and protection to those seeking safety.

Instead of closing the border, the Administration needs to recommit and expand access and resources to ensure safe and rights-based pathways for migrants and refugees. Those seeking asylum are often doing so because it is their only option for safety and survival as other pathways are limited or non-existent. The closing of the border will have no impact on the number of those forced to migrate due to wars and violence, political and economic instability, as well as environmental degradation and the consequences of climate change – and often an intersection of all of these factors.

In bowing to rightwing pressures and fear-driven narratives, Biden’s border closure will undoubtedly fuel more anti-immigrant scapegoating and vigilantism at the expense of women, men, and children already traumatized and in crisis, and who deserve human rights and lives with dignity. Without opportunities to safely approach a port of entry, and with a low daily threshold on how many people are able to seek asylum before a cap is triggered, people will have no options but to cross through more treacherous terrain that will lead to increased injuries and deaths.