Biden’s new immigration order draws mixed reception from Coloradans in Congress

Biden Immigration
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
President Joe Biden speaks about an executive order in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2024. Biden unveiled plans to enact immediate significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Colorado’s congressional delegation has mixed feelings about President Joe Biden’s new executive order to limit the number of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.-Mexico border.

The order went into effect Wednesday and prevents migrants who cross the border illegally from being eligible for asylum. Migrants will still be able to apply at ports of entry. But the order also temporarily suspends the processing of claims if the seven day average of unauthorized crossings is above 2,500. Daily numbers are higher than that now. The ban will stay in place until the average stays below 1,500 for a week.

The move comes months after  Republicans, urged on by former president Donald Trump, scuttled a bipartisan border deal crafted in the Senate. The U.S. experienced record high numbers of immigrant encounters at the border last year.

Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper said the executive order is a relatively small, isolated measure, but one that could have significant impact. 

“I think you're not doing anyone a benefit by letting them come into this country and spend 6 to 10 years waiting to get a hearing,” Hickenlooper told CPR News. “So, hopefully, this will send a message and people, who are unlikely to be granted asylum, will choose other things, other places to invest themselves.”

Like most Republicans, Colorado GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert was critical of Biden’s move, calling it “half-baked.” She has taken a hardline stance on immigration and supports mass deportations. 

“We need to be implementing President Trump’s border policies that worked to stop the flow of illegal aliens into our country, not a half-baked executive order designed to save a flailing campaign and still allow thousands of illegal aliens to enter our country every day,” Boebert said in a statement. 

There were hundreds of thousands of illegal crossings throughout Trump's tenure in office, but the number ballooned after Biden took office and rolled back Trump-era restrictions. 

After Congress failed to pass legislation to tackle the problem, GOP House leadership urged Biden to use his executive authority to address the border. Still, Republican leaders have been critical of Biden’s move, saying it doesn’t go far enough. They’ve called for ending “catch and release” policies or reimplementing the “remain in Mexico” policy.

Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo said she was pleased to see the administration take action, but that it’s not enough. 

“I’ve said repeatedly the President needs to take further action on this issue, because Republicans in Congress have demonstrated time and time again they are more interested in using immigration as a political tool than they are in working with the President to solve it as a matter of national security,” Caraveo said in an email. “I’m proud to carry a bipartisan immigration package that takes a significant step toward comprehensive immigration reform. That would be a great place for Speaker Johnson to start.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, who has been involved in immigration negotiations throughout his time in office, said the order is likely to face a legal challenge. But he said something needed to be done, and it hasn’t been easy because of Republicans. 

“I think you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t…I believe [the Biden Administration] should have acted much sooner to address this, but I think they’re acting in the wake of the Republican intransigence on the negotiation that we had here,” Bennet told CPR News.

He said the American people want a functional, reliable immigration system, including a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented who have been in the country for years, as well as a visa system.

Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen said Biden’s step was necessary. 

“To fix our broken system, we need real, lasting solutions that can only come through congressional action. It’s time for Republicans to put their partisan agenda aside and help us address this crisis now,” she said in a statement.

Groups that work with immigrants in Colorado, however, were less measured. They largely blasted Biden’s move.

“These restrictive measures will negatively impact human beings who are in desperate need of shelter and safety. The United States has a moral and legal obligation to protect those fleeing danger and to create a fair and dignified process for asylum seekers,” said Gladis Ibarra, Co-Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), in a statement.

CIRC led a number of groups, including Movimiento Poder, ISAAC of Northern Colorado and Together Colorado, in calling the order “dangerous and inhumane.”

Jennifer Piper, with the Colorado Office of the American Friends Service Committee, said the order, “directly contradicts President Biden’s commitment to rebuild the asylum system and they also violate the refugee convention. And furthermore, I don’t believe they’ll deter migration.”

“These policies don’t get at the root of what causes people to migrate. They're just making that migration more dangerous and more deadly,” she added.

The Biden Administration defended the move.

“These actions demonstrate this administration's commitment to securing the border and managing migration in a comprehensive balanced way, one that includes tough consequences for unlawful entry that are paired with expanded access to lawful pathways and we've delivered those consequences at the border,” said Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kristie Canegallo to reporters.

Canegallo added the administration’s message is still that immigrants should use lawful pathways to come to the United States.