Border arrests plummet 40% following Biden's executive order on asylum process

Apprehensions over illegal border crossings have dropped more than 40% since President Joe Biden signed an executive order regarding the asylum process, the Homeland Security Department said Wednesday.

The restrictions he announced at the beginning of June cut off asylum access when arrivals at the border reached a certain number, infuriating immigration advocates who say the policy differs little from what Trump attempted. 

Then a few weeks later, Biden announced a new program aimed at undocumented spouses of American citizens who had been in the country for a decade or more that could ultimately provide them a pathway to citizenship.

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The figures announced Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security show that the Border Patrol's average daily arrests over a seven-day period have fallen below 2,400, down more than 40% from before Biden's proclamation took effect June 5. That's still above the 1,500 mark needed to resume asylum processing, but Homeland Security says it marks the lowest number since Jan. 17, 2021, just before Biden took office.

The announcement comes just one day before President Joe Biden is set to debate former President and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in what is expected to be a crucial moment in the election campaign.

Biden is considered especially vulnerable with voters when it comes to immigration. Trump has hammered him repeatedly on border security by painting a picture of the border as out of control and migrants as a threat to the nation's security and economy.

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Under the asylum suspension, which takes effect when daily arrests are above 2,500, anyone who expresses fear or an intention to seek asylum is screened by a U.S. asylum officer but at a higher standard than currently used. If they pass the screening, they can pursue more limited forms of humanitarian protection than asylum, including the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Immigration advocates have sued to stop the restrictions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.