San Jose City Hall sign on building side
The San Jose City Council's Latino Caucus is speaking out against President Joe Biden's recent executive order to close the border to migrants seeking asylum. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Latino leaders across San Jose are saying President Joe Biden’s recent executive order closing the border to migrants is a step in the wrong direction for the nation’s immigration policy and immigrant communities.

Those who work with asylum seekers fleeing violence such as San Jose nonprofit Amigos de Guadalupe said migrants can’t wait years for the asylum-by-appointment process. Many are reaching the border in a traumatic state, they said.

The country can’t pride itself on being a nation welcoming of immigrants with Biden’s latest executive order, Amigos de Guadalupe CEO Maritza Maldonado told San José Spotlight.

“I have heard and seen pictures of the worst, so for us to say to asylum seekers at the border ‘Go back to your country’ – it’s not American to me,” she said.

Maldonado compared the executive order to the COVID-19 era Title 42 expulsion policy that allowed deportation and prevention of people entering the country if they had recently been to a country where COVID-19 was present.

“What he’s telling us is, ‘I’ve adopted the previous administration’s policies,’” Maldonado said José Spotlight. “As a lifelong Democrat, I’m left now questioning my own party’s values. I have to be very blunt about that.”

The Trump administration policy continued into the Biden administration until the pandemic national emergency ended May 11, 2023.

Biden’s decision to close the border comes as he said Congress has failed to secure it from situations including the smuggling of fentanyl at ports of entry.

“Those who seek to come to the United States legally, for example, by making an appointment and coming to a port of entry, asylum will still be available,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “To protect Americans in the land that welcomes immigrants, we must first secure the border and secure it now.”

The San Jose City Council’s Latino Caucus released a statement Wednesday rebuking the executive order — calling on Biden to reverse it and prioritize protections for asylum seekers.

Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei signed on to the statement and told San José Spotlight the country should be looking for alternative ways to welcome asylum seekers, not creating more barriers to entry.

Her father went through the immigration process, she said, and it’s worth looking into what works and what doesn’t work.

“These people who apply for asylum, some have even been persecuted and face really egregious situations in terms of threats to their life,” Kamei told San José Spotlight. “So I think while the current process is not perfect by any means, just abruptly doing this causes more barriers than facilitating a solution.”

The city has a list of community resources and legal services for seeking immigration assistance.

Councilmember Domingo Candelas echoes Kamei’s statement and said he is disappointed with Biden’s decision. He’s calling on Congress to fix what he calls a flawed immigration process.

“Our hope is to call attention to the border crisis and reaffirm our support for our asylum seekers and folks who are looking for a better place,” Candelas told San José Spotlight. “The executive order is indicative of desperation. It should be rooted in legislation and collaboration to fix our broken immigration system.”

Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow @VicenteJVera on X, formerly known as Twitter.
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