President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday giving himself the authority to close the border when the seven-day average of daily border crossings between ports of entry exceeds 2,500. 

The order is set to take effect immediately, since the daily threshold has already been met. The border will only reopen if crossings between ports fall to a seven-day daily average of 1,500 or less. 

“This action will help us to gain control of our border, restore order to the process,” Biden said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Biden is drawing on the authority in Title 8 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to temporarily close the border. 

The executive action specifically makes three changes to Biden’s own border policy: 

  1. Illegal aliens who cross the border between a port of entry will “generally be ineligible for asylum.”
  2. Illegal aliens who are being processed for “expedited removal while the limitation is in effect will only be referred for a credible-fear screening” if they express that they are afraid to return to their country of origin. 
  3. The qualification for a “credible-fear” interview is being raised to “reasonable probability of persecution or torture standard.”

Biden made it clear that the order only applies to illegal crossings between ports of entry, saying “those who seek — come to the United States legally — for example, by making an appointment and coming to a port of entry — asylum will still be available to them — still available.”

Even before Biden issued the order Tuesday, Republican lawmakers criticized the then-anticipated action, saying the order was too little, too late to solve a crisis they say Biden himself caused. 

“On Day One, this president signed dozens of executive orders that caused this border crisis,” Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., said during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning. 

Ciscomani said that since Biden took office in January 2021, he has refused to “take any kind of responsibility or ownership over this crisis. Also since then, [Biden] refused that he had any authority to actually solve or address this crisis that we’re seeing now.”

On Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order stopping border wall construction, and rolled back a number of Trump administration border and immigration policies that the Biden administration called “harsh and extreme.” Biden suspended President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy when he took office, and formally ended the program in the spring of 2021. 

Biden has repeatedly said “Congress must act” to secure the border, but Republicans and Democrats have failed to agree on a border bill. In May 2023, the GOP-led House passed HR 2, a border security bill that would restart border wall construction, end catch and release, and reinstate the “Remain in Mexico” policy. The Senate has yet to take up the bill. 

A Senate border bill, which was touted as “bipartisan” and backed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., failed in February and again in May as Republicans said the bill would do more harm than good at the southern border by still allowing 4,000 illegal aliens to enter the country daily. 

Republicans have criticized the failed Senate bill and Biden’s new executive action as an election year stunt. After economic issues, immigration is a top concern for American voters ahead of the November presidential election, according to Gallup

“Like the Schumer Senate border bill, the exceptions swallow the rule,” Lora Ries, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center, told The Daily Signal. “Biden simply wants credit for ‘doing something’ five months out from Election Day and to bash congressional Republicans, even though the House did its job,” said Ries, noting the passage of HR 2, “a real border security bill,” last year.

“Joe Biden has had 3 years to secure the border,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday. “Why is he just now signing an executive order to fix it? It’s a political play before the election to get the corporate media to gush and say, ‘Things aren’t so bad.’”

During a press conference Tuesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., called Biden’s executive order on the border “window dressing,” adding that if Biden “was concerned about the border, he would have done this a long time ago.”

On the other side of the political aisle, opponents of stronger border enforcement also criticized the president for his executive action, arguing it would harm illegal aliens seeking asylum. 

“A few days into Immigrant Heritage Month … and [Biden] is planning to shut down legal pathway for people fleeing persecution,” the Welcome With Dignity Campaign wrote on X on Monday. 

Laura St. John, legal director of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, said in a statement that her pro-immigration organization is “deeply dismayed to see the Biden administration enacting further restrictions on asylum.” 

The Border Patrol’s apprehension of illegal aliens has remained high this spring. In April, the Border Patrol apprehended an average of 4,296 illegal aliens between ports of entry daily. Since Biden took office, Customs and Border Protection has encountered 9.5 million illegal aliens at or between U.S. ports of entry. An additional nearly 1.8 million known “gotaways” have crossed America’s borders since Biden took office.