In response to growing criticism of his open border immigration policies, President Joe Biden paid his first visit to the southern border with Mexico on Sunday. He toured federal immigration facilities and an official border crossing point in El Paso, Texas, which has been inundated by an unprecedented flow of illegal immigrants from countries in Latin America.
During fiscal year 2022, which ended on September 30, 2.2 million migrants, the highest number since 1960, were arrested by the Border Patrol trying to illegally cross the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
Last month, despite pressure from the White House, El Paso’s Democrat mayor, Oscar Leeser, declared a state of emergency. Earlier in December, a sudden influx of migrants from Nicaragua and Cuba, including small children, overwhelmed the existing shelters in El Paso. Since then, the overflow of new arrivals has been living on the streets of El Paso and sleeping in the open on benches as nighttime temperatures dipped below freezing.
ON THE WAY TO THE NORTH AMERICAN SUMMIT
Biden announced his intention to make the brief visit to the border last week during a stop on his way to attend a two-day North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City. There he met with the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, to discuss a variety of issues, including the huge increase in the number of illegal immigrants being drawn from all over the world by Biden’s open border policies.
The agenda of the North American Leaders’ Summit, also known as the Three Amigos Summit, focused on the issues of climate change, migration and the mass smuggling into the United States of dangerous Chinese-made illegal drugs, particularly fentanyl, which was responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Americans last year.
The three leaders also discussed a number of trade disputes that have arisen since the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement went into effect in 2020. These include US objections to the Mexican government’s plans to ban the importation of genetically modified corn, and objections by Mexico and Canada to recently passed laws restricting financial incentives for American consumers purchasing electric vehicles.
During Biden’s four-hour visit to El Paso, he was accompanied by several members of Congress, local and federal law enforcement officers and media reporters. He spoke with federal border patrol agents at the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry, the city’s busiest border crossing, walked for a short stretch on a dirt road along the American side of the 18-foot high border fence separating El Paso from the city of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and then met with local officials and workers at the El Paso County Migrant Services Center.
Mexican officials have also had to provide emergency food and shelter for between 7,000 and 10,000 immigrants who are currently stranded on the other side of the border from El Paso in Ciudad Juarez.
Asked by reporters what he had learned from the visit to the federal immigration facilities at the border, Biden said, “They need a lot of resources. We’re going to get it for them.”
For months, Biden’s Republican critics had been publicly urging him to visit the Mexican border in the belief that the horrid conditions that he would be confronted with there, in the presence of reporters, would force him to review his immigration policies. But that did not happen.
MEANINGLESS PHOTO-OPS IN EL PASO
Instead, Biden’s critics complain, the president was shown a carefully sanitized version of conditions along the border following a rapid clean-up campaign just prior to his arrival which removed the homeless migrants who had turned the streets of downtown El Paso into a humanitarian disaster area.
Two days prior to Biden’s arrival, the union that represents federal Border Patrol agents issued a statement that noted that “El Paso [is] being cleaned up as if nothing unusual ever happened there, just in time for Biden’s ‘visit to the border.’ We suggest just landing in Des Moines, Iowa and telling him it’s El Paso. He’ll never know the difference,” the statement claimed.
Now that the president has responded to the challenges of his critics by visiting the southern border, Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn predicts that nothing will change and that Biden immigration policy will soon be “back to business as usual,” ignoring the crisis at the border or denying that it even exists.
BIDEN TWEAKS IMMIGRATION POLICIES
The El Paso visit took place a few days after the Biden administration unveiled plans to expand the number of illegal immigrants who would be quickly removed from the United States without first letting them seek asylum. The plan has been harshly criticized by pro-immigration groups and liberal Democrats, who say that it endangers the safety of the migrants and violates the human rights of those who are seeking asylum in the United States from persecution in their home countries.
The Biden administration has also introduced a new smartphone app called CPB One, designed to enable migrants to avoid delays at the southern border by scheduling their asylum hearings in federal immigration court before leaving their home countries.
Mexican officials have also rejected a recent proposal by the Biden administration that would automatically deny asylum to immigrants arriving at the southern border after having traveled through Mexico without seeking refuge in Mexico first. That so-called “safe harbor in a third country” policy, which was first proposed by President Trump in 2019, was rejected last week by Roberto Velasco, the Mexican Foreign Ministry’s chief officer for North America, who said that it is “a red line for us [because] it would overwhelm the system.”
Ana Lorena Delgadillo, the director of the Foundation for Justice, an organization that supports migrants in Mexico, told the New York Times that she agrees that “Mexico cannot guarantee the security of those fleeing violence [because] Mexicans are fleeing violence in their own communities. How are we going to protect others if we cannot protect our own?” Delgadillo asked.
DISMANTLING TRUMP POLICIES THAT WORKED
Since becoming president, Biden has systematically dismantled the border control policies put in place by President Donald Trump that had sharply reduced the flow of illegal immigrants crossing into the country. Biden halted the construction of Trump’s border wall, ended an agreement with Mexico that required immigrants seeking to cross into the US to wait in Mexico for their federal immigration hearing, and ordered federal immigration officers to deport only those illegal immigrants in this country who had been accused of committing violent crimes.
The result has been a record number of immigrants caught crossing the border, along with a rapid increase in the volume of illegal drugs being smuggled into the country and human trafficking organized by the criminal drug cartels.
In recent months, the governors of Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Florida have been transporting busloads and small plane loads of newly arrived illegal immigrants in their states to liberal, self-declared “sanctuary cities” such as New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, as well as the posh Massachusetts island resort of Martha’s Vineyard. The goal of these symbolic public relations stunts was to bring to the public’s attention the fact that the federal government has refused to help the states and local governments along the border that have been inundated with the arrival of thousands of immigrants each week to provide the services and bear the huge financial burden of properly caring for the immigrants’ basic humanitarian needs.
However, over the weekend, Colorado’s Democrat Governor, Jared Polis, announced that he was halting the busing of migrants from Denver to New York City and Chicago after the mayors of those cities complained that their homeless shelters were already filled to capacity.
“TWO YEARS TOO LATE AND $20 BILLION SHORT”
In an interview last week, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott told Fox Business reporter Maria Bartiromo that “The president caused the chaos at the border… It just so happens he’s two years too late and about $20 billion short of what needs to be done.” Abbott added, “He’s not going to achieve my solutions that will make the border safer, more secure and stop illegal immigration.”
Upon arriving in El Paso on Sunday, Biden was greeted by Governor Abbott, who handed him a letter which said, “This chaos is the direct result of your failure to enforce the immigration laws that Congress enacted.” The letter asked Biden to order federal Border Patrol agents to detain more of the immigrants caught entering the country illegally and to complete the construction of the wall along the Mexican border initiated by President Trump.
Similarly, West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito stated in a Fox News op-ed piece that Biden’s belated visit to the southern border “checks a box, but it doesn’t even begin to solve the problems we are facing there.”
“The president neglecting to visit the southern border — during a time when we are facing record illegal crossings and there is a clear crisis — would be the equivalent of our commander in chief not visiting the Pentagon during a military operation,” Capito wrote.
Republicans have argued that Biden’s publicly expressed desire to be more “humane” along the southern border has been widely interpreted as a thinly veiled open invitation for more illegal immigrants from around the world.
AN IMMIGRATION POLICY BASED UPON DENIAL
Biden administration officials, led by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, insist that federal agencies have the situation at the border under control. They have sought to deflect criticism for the continuing surge of illegal border crossings by arguing that the illegal immigration problem is due to several different factors, including extreme poverty and dangerous conditions in Latin American countries; Congress’s inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform; and a surge in the number of migrants leaving their countries across the globe.
“We have surged resources to address a challenge that is not unique to the southern border of the United States,” Mayorkas said Sunday in an ABC television interview. He noted that large numbers of migrants from Nicaragua and Venezuela have also been surging into Colombia and Costa Rica. “It’s gripping the hemisphere, and a regional challenge requires a regional solution.”
During the midterm election campaign, a number of Republican leaders publicly called upon Mayorkas to resign, stating that if he refused to do so, after they had gained majority control over the House, they would launch impeachment proceedings against him for failing to enforce federal immigration laws.
Meanwhile, Biden has sought to place the blame for the record flow of illegal immigrants on Republicans in Congress for being unable to reach a bipartisan agreement with Democrats on long-needed reforms to federal immigration laws.
“If the most extreme Republicans continue to demagogue this issue and reject solutions, I’m left with only one choice: to act on my own, do as much as I can on my own to try to change the atmosphere,” the president said.
Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio rejected Biden’s argument, pointing out that over the past two years, Biden and the Democrats were in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, yet failed to make a serious effort to reform the immigration laws. “They just controlled all of government literally a couple of weeks ago,” Jordan said in an interview with Fox News. “Why in the world didn’t they get an immigration solution?”
IMMIGRANTS ON “PAROLE”
Before his visit to the border last week, Biden unveiled a change to his immigration policy that would enable a total of up to 30,000 migrants a month from the countries of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to be admitted into this country on “parole,” and be given work permits good for two years as long as they have submitted the appropriate application online identifying a sponsor in the US willing to pay for their airline ticket and take financial responsibility for their care after they arrive.
But migrants from those countries who attempt to enter the United States without permission or even cross into Panama or Mexico on their way north will be subject to a five-year ban on reentry into the United States, and immediately expulsion to Mexico, whose government has agreed to accept 30,000 such individuals a month.
When he announced the parole program last week, Biden warned migrants from the four eligible countries, “Do not just show up at the border. Stay where you are and apply legally from there.”
The new policy is an expansion of a federal pilot program instituted last October that accepted up to 24,000 immigrants a month, but only from Venezuela.
On Sunday, Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw told CNN that the administration’s claims regarding the benefits of its expanded “parole” plan cannot be accepted at face value. He noted that it is “just changing how the migrants get into the country [and] processing them in a different way.
“We will not be tricked into thinking that certain policies that make it seem more streamlined, make it seem less chaotic, equals securing the border,” Crenshaw added.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has gone further, calling the administration’s parole policy an abuse of federal immigration law and proposing new legislation to limit its use.
Conservative groups have also objected to Biden’s use of his parole authority to admit up to 360,000 migrants from four different countries annually, because that option has been reserved in the past for exceptional circumstances. They see Biden’s expansion of the parole program as a move to create a new parallel immigration system designed to bring in large numbers of migrants who would not otherwise qualify for legal entry.
THE TITLE 42 CONTROVERSY
Pro-immigration liberal groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have harshly criticized the Biden administration for continuing to use an emergency Covid pandemic-era policy called Title 42 to expel asylum seekers because of the threat they pose to public health. The Biden administration had announced last year that it intended to halt the Title 42 expulsions, but the move was temporarily blocked by a 5-4 Supreme Court order issued last month in response to a lawsuit filed by officials in Texas and 18 other states defending the need for Title 42 to remain in effect. The Supreme Court has scheduled a March 1 hearing for oral arguments on the Title 42 case and whether the expulsions should continue.
Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Democrat Progressive Caucus in the House, and fellow progressive Jesús “Chuy” García of Illinois, praised the Biden administration for expanding its parole program, but called the continuation of Title 42 expulsions unacceptable.
“Immigrants and their families are not a political football, and seeking asylum is a legal right,” they said in a joint statement.
In an interview with Fox News, Ro Khanna, an outspoken liberal Democrat congressman from California, told Fox News, “There’s no doubt that there is a problem at the border, and President Biden recognizes it and it’s common sense. We need to secure the border, but also have the humanity.”
Khanna said that Title 42 is no longer relevant and should no longer be used as a substitute for an appropriate federal immigration policy. “I agree with Justice Gorsuch. I don’t think we should be making the excuse that people are denied asylum because of Covid policy. I mean, that may have been the case a year and a half ago, and certainly not the case now.”
He also said, “We need to distinguish between people who are coming here just for economic reasons and people who are really fleeing persecution… I think every person who has a legitimate asylum claim should be able to make that claim, but we should make sure that’s legitimate.”
In fact, more than 90% of illegal immigrants applying for asylum when they cross the borders are actually coming here for economic reasons, and their applications for asylum are rejected by the courts when their cases are finally heard. But because there is currently a backlog of millions of asylum requests waiting for a court hearing, by the time their cases are heard, most migrants have been allowed to live in this country for years.
THE POLITICS OF THE AMNESTY ISSUE
The illegal immigration problem has been a festering and divisive political issue in Washington for decades. The most recent major reform to federal immigration law was passed with bipartisan support during the Reagan administration in 1986, and established a troublesome precedent by granting amnesty to 2.7 million illegal immigrants who had entered the country prior to 1982.
As a result, many immigrants currently living in this country illegally believe that eventually, they, too, will ultimately receive amnesty, enabling them to gain permanent legal resident status.
But the next serious attempts to reach bipartisan agreement on immigration reform launched by President George W. Bush in 2006 and by the so-called “Gang of Eight” senators in 2013 both failed, leaving the federal immigration system broken and dysfunctional.
One of the reasons it has been so difficult to reach a bipartisan agreement on immigration reform, and especially on the divisive issue of creating a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants currently living illegally in this country, is the widespread belief that almost all such new citizens would become loyal Democrat voters, permanently altering the political balance in future national elections in favor of the Democrats. That is why Republicans have been so adamant in rejecting any immigration reform proposal that includes a path to citizenship for those who are already living here illegally.
LESSONS FROM BIDEN’S FATHER
President Biden, as a lifelong liberal Democrat, has said that he sympathizes with asylum seekers. He has often told the story of how his father, whom he called a “righteous Christian,” taught him as a child at the family dinner table about the Holocaust, and “how wrong it was that we turned away the St. Louis, a ship full of Jewish refugees from Europe,” in 1939, forcing them to return to Antwerp, Belgium, and ultimately leading to the deaths of most of them in Nazi concentration camps.
But Biden also said last week that “the other side of this” issue is that Americans deserve border security.
At the same time, he admitted that many of those wanting to come to America are economic migrants searching for work, which is not valid grounds for asylum, because the United States has the “strongest economy in the world.”
“Can’t blame them wanting to do it,” Biden said. “They chase their own American Dream in the greatest nation in the world,” like so many other families, “including mine.”
BRINGING IN THE RIGHT PEOPLE
President Trump, on the other hand, sought to use federal immigration law as a tool to attract the most talented people living in foreign countries to come to the United States in order strengthen the economy. At the same time, Trump sought to eliminate random or unselective policies such as chain migration, and to tighten enforcement along the borders in order to protect national security.
Andreas Flores, a former immigration policy adviser to Biden who now works for Democrat Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, said that immigration policy is “an incredibly hard issue. Those of us who care about democracy and the rise of fascism, and how a disorderly migration system can fuel political movements that are detrimental, care about getting it right.”
She suggests that Biden’s parole program is likely to result in the wrong kind of people being admitted into the country. It gives an advantage to relatively privileged people living in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba who have friends or relatives in the United States willing to sponsor them, as well as access to an internet-connected smartphone, enabling them to easily apply for admission. At the same time, the parole program’s rules will disqualify persecuted people from the same countries who just show up at the US-Mexican border seeking refuge.
Leon Rodriguez, who ran the US Citizenship and Immigration Services during President Barack Obama’s second term, said, “I’d like to believe we have a core set of humanitarian values that says, to the extent we’re able, our values are to offer refuge and other kinds of protection to victims of persecution. But there are good reasons to deter people from trying to make the dangerous land journey to the US border, where they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by criminal elements.”