US President Joe Biden backs Senate deal, promises to 'shut down border' when overwhelmed

Watch: US President Joe Biden has backed the border deal being negotiated in the Senate.
Watch: US President Joe Biden has backed the border deal being negotiated in the Senate. Photo credit: Getty Images

Story by Reuters

President Joe Biden said on Friday that the border deal being negotiated in the U.S. Senate was the "toughest and fairest" set of reforms possible and vowed to "shut down the border" the day he signs the bill.

The bipartisan talks have hit a critical point amid mounting Republican opposition. Some Republicans have set a deal on border security as a condition for further Ukraine aid.

Earlier in the day, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said the deal is "dead on arrival" in its current form, according to a letter to Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives reviewed by Reuters.

Biden, a Democrat seeking another term in the Nov. 5 elections, has grappled with record numbers of migrants caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border during his presidency. Republicans contend Biden should have kept the restrictive policies of Republican former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for his party's nomination.

"What's been negotiated would – if passed into law – be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we've ever had in our country," Biden said in a statement.

"It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law," he said.

The White House has agreed to new limits on asylum at the border, including the creation of an expulsion power that would allow migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally to be rapidly returned to Mexico if migrant encounters surpassed 4,000 per day, three sources familiar with the matter said.

If encounters passed 5,000 per day, the use of the expulsion authority would become mandatory, according to the sources who requested anonymity to discuss details of the private negotiations.

In December, encounters averaged, opens new tab more than 9,500 per day, according to U.S. government statistics released on Friday.

The sweeping authority would be comparable to the COVID-era Title 42 policy put in place under Trump during the pandemic and which ended under Biden in May 2023.

Migrants trying to claim asylum would still be able to do so at legal border crossings if the expulsion power was in effect, one of the sources said.

The U.S. would be required to allow at least 1,400 migrants per day to approach legal crossings to claim asylum if the expulsions were in effect, the source added.

The bill aims to resolve asylum claims in six months without detaining migrants, the source said, faster than the current process, which can take years.

Trump, however, took to social media last week to warn against any deal that fails to deliver everything Republicans want to shut down border crossings.

Biden also urged Congress on Friday to provide the funding he asked for in October to secure the border.

"This includes an additional 1,300 border patrol agents, 375 immigration judges, 1,600 asylum officers, and over 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to help detect and stop fentanyl at our southwest border," the president said.