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What Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls thinks about Biden's new asylum policy

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced new rules for the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the executive order, when there are 2,500 daily encounters between Border Patrol and border crossers between ports of entry, the asylum system will essentially shut down temporarily.

That threshold has already been met, and the asylum system will only reopen once daily encounters fall to 1,500. There are some exceptions, though, including for unaccompanied children.

Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls joined The Show to talk more about the situation. 

Conversation highlights

What do you make of what President Biden is doing here?

DOUGLAS NICHOLLS: Well, you know, first thought is that we, the border communities have been asking for some sort of executive action for the last three years. And we kept getting rebuffed saying that's not our role, but now it evidently it is. So we're happy that, that we're seeing some forward of progress in that arena. The action in and of itself can be good, although it's got some concerns with it. It's definitely, I guess, a move in the right direction.

Although it only went into effect hours ago, have you seen any noticeable effect in Yuma yet?

NICHOLLS: Oh, no, I mean, it is very, very early. Because what happens in Yuma right now isour numbers are already pretty low, but we're currently supporting Tucson Sector and San Diego Sector. So they ... bus or transport migrants to the Yuma area for processing. And so it'll be a couple of days before we see that effect to see if there's any reduction.

We talked about the legislative measure. This is also something that the ACLU has said it plans to challenge in court. What do you make of the fact that his is in effect now, but maybe won't be for as long as maybe you think it should be?

NICHOLLS: Well, I mean, that is definitely a problem. If that ends up being the case, if there's no other measures put forward. But ... one of my things I've been advocating for is, is a lot of other measures that the president I believe can do and those would also help. But they're only all just tools in the toolbox until we get a stronger perspective, a stronger policy base. And then ultimately, we need immigration reform, border security reform through Congress.

It sounds like you're saying if you really want to affect change, it has to come from Congress, not executive orders.

NICHOLLS: Well, so every president for the last 20, 30 years, regardless of party, has been able to implement policy and executive orders to manage the border. So I think we can get that again without congressional change, but it's always going to be a moving target. So, to me, the short-term process is we get control the border through executive order and policy change. Long term, we need to ... definitely have Congress step in. Fund border protection correctly and have the right measures in place in the law so that it doesn't depend upon executive orders.

Do you think — absent other things that the president as you think could do — this will secure control of the border?

NICHOLLS: I don't believe it's gonna get us there. It'll be a step in the right direction. But I don't think it's in and of itself sufficient enough to achieve security — because 2,500 people or even 1,500 people a day is still higher than where we normally are; 8,000 was the number that had crossed through the Yuma Sector just a few years ago — for the whole year. We're now up at 44,000 for this fiscal year, and the year is obviously not done yet. And that's considered low compared to the other sectors around the country. So we're far from being secure. We're far from being in control of what the border activity actually is.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.