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What to expect from Biden’s border plan


President Biden's executive order limiting asylum claims for most undocumented migrants does not shut down the U.S. southern border, but it is meant to send a message that it's getting harder to get into the U.S. And the idea is to encourage migrants to legally apply for entry using a government app rather than cross undocumented. So will that plan work? NPR's Jasmine Garsd has been asking experts that question, and she's here now. Hi there.


SUMMERS: So Jasmine, at the center of this order, there's a cap on the number of unauthorized crossings per day. Can you just quickly catch us up on the details?

GARSD: Sure. So when in one week unauthorized crossings exceed an average of 2,500 migrants a day, then the rule gets triggered. And people crossing the U.S. southern border undocumented can no longer apply for asylum and are subject to expedited removal, with some exceptions like unaccompanied minors. The order does not shut down the CBP One app, which is the government app for migrants to legally apply for entry to the U.S. And as you mentioned, the idea is to get more people to use that app.

SUMMERS: Right, that's the idea, but will it work? I understand that you've been talking to some analysts and asking them that question. What have they said?

GARSD: It's instructive to look at what happened during the Trump administration's activation of a somewhat similar rule. People got stuck in Mexico and many suffered human rights abuses and even deaths. Maureen Meyer is with the Washington Office on Latin America, and she says the same thing could happen now.

MAUREEN MEYER: I think people that want to cross the right way are being forced to wait in unsustainable conditions. That wait will be longer. And the real question is how many people will then, out of desperation, decide to cross undetected using more remote routes, putting themselves in the hands of often ruthless smuggling organizations?

GARSD: In fact, border deaths have been on the rise for years.

SUMMERS: OK. So Jasmine, we know what has been proven not to work, but what are people saying could actually work?

GARSD: The U.S. has been attempting deterrence for decades. Adam Isacson with the Washington Office on Latin America, says he's counted at least 10 policies put into place to push numbers down, just since the Trump administration.

ADAM ISACSON: I've counted at least 10 policies that have been put in place to try to push the numbers down, to try to deter people. Every single one of those policies does push the numbers down for a few months, and then they start to recover, and they come right back because there's not that much you can do to make the experience more miserable for people at the border than the conditions that they're fleeing to begin with.

GARSD: Now, that last thing, addressing the conditions that push people out, experts I spoke to agree it has to be part of the plan. But what the Biden administration is aiming for is to decrease the high percentage of migrants crossing undocumented and claiming asylum. Here's Andrew Selee with the Migration Policy Institute.

ANDREW SELEE: They're betting that if they can bring that number down a little bit, it will dissuade some people, and that's certainly plausible.

GARSD: And the big question is, why would it work this time? Selee says it could dissuade people, but it's more likely a short-term solution.

SUMMERS: OK. And Mexico is an integral part of this rule because the rule involves sending a lot more migrants there. Jasmine, just quickly, how has Mexico responded?

GARSD: Well, for decades, Mexico has been cooperating with U.S. immigration policy. Earlier today, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says - he's made it clear that deterrence alone won't work, but Mexico will cooperate.

SUMMERS: NPR's Jasmine Garsd covers immigration. Thank you.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.