Jun 4, 2024 - Politics

"Better late than never": Arizona leaders react to Biden border crackdown

President Biden at a podium in front of a sign that says, "Securing our border."

President Biden speaks at the unveiling of measures to head off a surge in border crossings. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order Tuesday that cuts off access to asylum when border numbers surge — and very few Arizona leaders are happy about it.

The big picture: Some of the state's most progressive politicians are calling it inhumane, while more moderate allies of the president say it doesn't go far enough to curb the crisis at the southern border.

  • Meanwhile, Republicans are painting it as a weak and belated measure.

Why it matters: Border security is one of Democrats' biggest pain points going into the November election.

Driving the news: Under Biden's order, which takes effect immediately, migrants who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border will largely be blocked from asylum and could face fast-tracked deportation when illegal border crossings reach a certain level, Biden officials say.

  • Removal to Mexico or a migrant's home country could happen in a matter of hours.
  • There are humanitarian exceptions — including for minors who cross the border without their parents.

What they're saying: "This executive action represents a significant departure from President Biden's promise of a more humane and just approach to immigration," Arizona's most progressive congressional member, U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, said in a statement.

  • Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has pivoted to a more moderate immigration stance since launching his Senate campaign, said in a statement the announcement was "a step in the right direction, but we still have more work to do."

Between the lines: Gallego and other Arizona Democrats were quick to point out that congressional Republicans killed a bipartisan border security deal earlier this year that would have provided more resources.

  • "It's Congress' job to address this crisis through sustained investments in border security and meaningful immigration reform," U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, who joined Biden at the White House for Tuesday's announcement, said in a statement.

The other side: Gallego's presumptive Republican Senate opponent, Kari Lake, slammed the order, with her campaign calling it "just another in a series of purely political moves."

  • "Arizonans will remember that Biden and Gallego are the ones who created this humanitarian and national security crisis in the first place," the campaign said in a statement, noting Gallego's opposition to Trump-era immigration policies.

Zoom in: Politicians and law enforcement officials in border towns are skeptical about the order's effectiveness.

  • Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls told Axios it was "better late than never," but criticized Biden for not taking action sooner.
  • He said he'd like to see the Biden administration dramatically speed up decision-making on asylum claims with virtual courts along the border, and to provide more assistance for public safety in border communities, particularly EMS services.
  • Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway told Axios he'd rather see Congress pass a "clean immigration bill" that expedites decisions on things like visa requests and asylum claims.
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