Could Biden be winning the U.S. immigration battle?

by A. Altieri D’Angelo

Photo: Tijuana (Mexico); the border with the United States of America

News coverage of the Trump Indictment, the Hunter Biden plea bargain, Ukraine, and the needless loss of the Titan has overshadowed positive news on the U.S. Immigration front. If sustainable, recent developments could be a game changer for the Biden re-election effort. By the end of 2023, Biden may be able to demonstrate that his Administration had solved the U.S.-Mexican Border (the Border) crisis and established an internationally acceptable formula for processing asylum claims.

As most people know, the U.S. immigration process and policies have been confusing for decades. Immigration has been the Achilles Heel of the Biden Administration. It is the convenient whipping boy for conservatives who blame many domestic problems on immigrants and refuse to fund government programs that could solve the immigration issues facing the U.S. However, Congress, under President Trump, did manage to find money to build the infamous wall along parts of the US-Mexican Border.

The Trump Administration adopted Title 42, a public health rule that sought to keep Covid from spreading into the U.S. They used it to prevent people from applying for asylum. Title 42 violated international law. (One result of this harsh policy was splitting migrant families entering the U.S. The Biden Administration stopped that policy immediately after entering office, but many families have not been reunited.)

When President Biden came into office, the immigration problem became even worse. The number of asylum seekers and migrants apprehended after crossing the Border between ports of entry began rising rapidly, increasing from 75,316 in January 2021 to 200,658 in July 2021. Biden had inherited an immigration processing system on the verge of collapse. Republicans blamed Biden’s policies for the increase in illegal crossings. They said his policy changes encouraged people to come to the U.S. American voters overwhelmingly believed he failed to control the borders.

(While Title 42 was in place, border crossings increased by creating a situation where people expelled back to Mexico made at least one additional attempt to cross the Border. Under Title 42, most single adults were rapidly processed at the Border and sent back to Mexico without a deportation order. However, The U.S. could not send all the undocumented immigrants to other countries, and they remained in the U.S.).

In 2023, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that Title 42 was unconstitutional; this meant that illegal immigrants could not just be detained and immediately sent to another country but needed to be allowed to seek asylum. When Title 42 ended on May 11, 2023, everyone expected a surge of migrants coming over the Border. There were over 10,000 crossings a day just before the end of Title 42. But no surge occurred. The Administration had ensured that people wanting to come to the U.S. understood the new rules.

The new policy states that immigrants who cross through a third country on the way to the U.S. and fail to seek protections there are presumed ineligible for asylum. Only people who enter the U.S. without authorization are subject to this new restriction. Anyone attempting to enter the U.S. must follow the new rules or risk being barred from entering the U.S. for five years. The U.S. also opened regional processing centers in South America and released an App to book appointments.

The new policy has dramatically reduced the number of people crossing into the U.S. The most recent numbers show that daily crossings are down to an average of 3,000 daily. And the number of people sent back due for failing to seek protection in the countries they have passed through has grown significantly. The new process is more humane and meets international law standards by allowing eligible immigrants to seek asylum. The drop from 10,000 daily crossings to 3,000 is excellent news for the Biden team. If this trend continues, Biden can claim he gained control of the Border.

The Biden administration also succeeded in a recent Supreme Court case. SCOTUS agreed with the Biden policy that allowed the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize deportations of migrants with serious criminal records. Various states had challenged the Administration’s approach. They wanted Biden to deport all illegal migrants. Scotus stated that the federal government had broad authority to set enforcement priorities. Biden can now allocate resources more efficiently.

The developments at the Border have yet to be well-known to the American voter. Most Americans still believe Biden needs to gain control of the Border and consider his approach a failure. The reality could not be more different. Biden and his team must work hard to change public opinion. The President should claim success boldly and loudly; in doing so, he eliminates a significant threat to his re-election campaign.

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