Immigration, a top issue before and during the Trump presidency, has become much less of a concern for Americans over the past year due to the primacy of the pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown. That, combined with the press’s lackadaisical approach to covering the Biden administration, means there hasn’t been enough media scrutiny of Biden’s incoherent border policy.
Frequently the Biden administration’s words do not match its actions, primarily because it does not seem to understand that policies have real-world consequences. For example, after Biden campaigned on loosening Trump’s stricter enforcement of immigration law, thousands of Honduran migrants formed a caravan to come to the US in hopes of gaining entry. The Biden team tried to put the genie back in the bottle. An unnamed transition team official told NBC News that migrants ‘need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately’.
Such messages are meaningless of course, unless they are accompanied by an actual policy change to eliminate the pull factors that incentivize migrants to attempt to cross the border. Instead, after taking office, Biden proposed legislation that would grant amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country, signed a memo upholding DACA and is phasing out the Migrant Protection Protocols program.
The MPP program, also known as the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, is of particular concern if the Biden administration actually wants to avoid a surge of migrants at the southern border. The policy was crafted during the Trump administration as a means of combating catch and release. Prior to MPP, migrants who claimed asylum at the southern border were often processed and then, due to overcrowding in detention centers, released into the interior of the US with promises to return for a later court date. Many did not return. Some paid human traffickers, known as coyotes, to smuggle their children across the border. MPP sent tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait for their court dates in Mexico instead, and scores of them merely returned to their home countries when they discovered gaining entry to the US wasn’t as easy as they’d hoped. Arrests of border crossers fell after implementation of the program, suggesting it was successful in its goal of disincentivizing illegal immigration via fraudulent asylum claims.
Secretary of state Anthony Blinken insisted that the cancelation of Trump’s asylum policies ‘do not mean that the US border is open’, adding, ‘While we are committed to expanding legal pathways for protection and opportunity here and in the region, the United States is a country with borders and laws that must be enforced.’
Again, such empty messages won’t stop a surge of migrants determined to live in the US. Unaccompanied migrant children are already flooding the border. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Health and Human Services shelters where minors are housed are already at 93 percent capacity. The Biden administration is ‘looking for ways to stave off a fresh humanitarian crisis’, the WSJ reported, noting that smugglers were telling migrants to attempt the journey now because Biden’s border policy would be more lenient than Trump’s. Joe helped build the cages, and now he’s making sure they’re full.