Immigration

A Border Crisis of Biden’s Own Making

Central American migrants are escorted out of private land as they are detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico in La Joya, Texas, April 27, 2021. (Go Nakamura/Reuters)
The administration is in full-blown denial over an entirely avoidable mess.

For President Biden, the border should have been similar to the COVID-vaccine rollout — something where all he had to do to succeed was broadly maintain the path that his predecessor had already set.

Instead, Biden blew holes in Trump’s border strategy and, as a surge of migrants predictably arrived at the border, his team set about denying reality and implausibly blaming Trump.

If the Biden administration expended as much energy securing the border in its first 100 days as it did denying there’s a “crisis” at the border, the alleged noncrisis would already be abating.

As it is, Biden and Co. aren’t fooling anyone. His rating on the border is abysmal — just 29 percent of the public approves of his handling of the border in recent Quinnipiac and CNBC polls.

It is telling that the inevitable internal Biden blame game over the crisis focuses on HHS secretary Xavier Becerra’s not doing enough to house the incoming minors rather than on the policies that started the unprecedented flow in the first place. The administration is clearly most interested in how it can better process the people coming into the country rather than how it can keep them out in the first place.

Biden’s treatment of the issue in his address to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday night was particularly otherworldly.

He touted comprehensive immigration reform as the solution to the border, although the security enhancements in such bills are usually window dressing and wouldn’t address the specific loopholes that allow migrants from Central America to gain access to America and stay here, when migrants from Mexico largely can’t.

He said that there’s no way to solve the migrant crisis without addressing the violence, corruption, gangs, political instability, and destitution in Central America. Then, astonishingly enough, he claimed to have alleviated all these problems as vice president until Trump came along and ripped it all up.

It’s not clear what Biden is even referring to, but if what he said were remotely true, there never would have been a migrant crisis under Trump in 2019 because conditions in Central America would have been too favorable for people to leave.

As for Trump supposedly reversing all the progress in conditions on the ground, it’s not even clear what Biden’s theory is. Trump did suspend aid to Central American countries to get them to cooperate on stemming the flow of migrants, but the aid was quickly restored when the countries played ball.

It’s completely obvious that what has driven the crisis at the border are expectations that Biden would be more welcoming than Trump and the exemption that Biden created for minors in Title 42, used to turn around migrants during the pandemic.

Biden has also ended Remain in Mexico, the successful program to get migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are adjudicated in the U.S. (if they are allowed in the U.S. during this process, they will never leave, even if their claims ultimately fail).

Why did Biden create this unnecessary crisis? It’s the outcome of ideology triumphing over common sense. That is true of the Biden approach more broadly — otherwise, he wouldn’t be proposing $6 trillion in new spending. The effects are most visible at the border, with rapid, real-world consequences, but that doesn’t mean that his domestic ambitions won’t ultimately lead to similar, if less immediately evident, failures.

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