Biden’s Border Bungling Is a Gift to Trump
BTW, Jason Riley never writes a bad column. Absolutely love this guy.
Biden’s Border Bungling Is a Gift to Trump
Illegal immigration helped decide the 2016 election. Why not try to avoid a repeat in 2024?
Jason L. Riley, WSJ
May 9, 2023 6:01 pm ET
Donald Trump demonstrated in 2016 that a Republican presidential candidate can run successfully on border security. So why are Democrats, terrified that he might win back his old job next year, tempting fate?
Joe Biden’s overall job approval dipped to a new low of 36% in an ABC News/Washington Post survey released on Sunday. His handling of immigration polls even worse. According to a Global Strategy Group survey taken last month, 58% of voters in seven battleground states disapprove of how he is handling the border, while just 32% approve. Global Strategy Group is a Democratic polling firm.
The administration has been telling itself that illegal immigration isn’t a pressing issue but rather a fetish of hard-hearted GOP governors in border states and Fox News viewers who are already lost to the Democratic Party. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has stated repeatedly that the border is secure. Yet U.S. Customs and Border Protection data continue to give the opposite impression, as do images of hordes of migrants crossing the Rio Grande and entering the country illegally.
The latest figures available from DHS show that apprehensions, a proxy measure for unlawful entries, numbered more than 162,000 at the southwest border in March. That represents a 25% rise over the previous month and is more than three times the March average for apprehensions under the Obama and Trump administrations. Illegal border crossings in the past fiscal year surpassed 2.3 million, the most ever, and the backlog of nearly 850,000 asylum cases waiting to be adjudicated is unprecedented.
All of this is poised to worsen considerably in the short run. The president plans to follow through this month on his promise to shelve a rule known as Title 42 that allowed border agents to deport illegal immigrants without allowing them to apply for asylum. Title 42 is a health-emergency measure that was implemented by the Trump administration during Covid. With the pandemic behind us, the White House has argued that Title 42 has outlived its usefulness. The reality is that a humanitarian crisis has replaced the public-health emergency, and Title 42 is one of the few policies preventing a total meltdown of border enforcement.
Under current law, refugees are permitted to enter the country illegally and then request asylum. The rationale is that people who are legitimately fleeing for their lives shouldn’t have to worry about entering the U.S. at official checkpoints. During the Obama administration, more economic migrants in search of work began to take advantage of our lenient system. When caught here illegally, or after turning themselves in, they would claim to be refugees fleeing physical danger back home. Many were then released into the U.S. to live and work while their asylum claims were adjudicated, a process that can take years.
The Trump administration’s implementation of Title 42, for whatever reason initially, had the added benefit of helping to curb the abuse of U.S. asylum policies. Given the current situation, Mr. Biden is obligated to come up with a viable alternative. Instead, we’ve gotten an announcement that 1,500 troops will be sent to the border—not as a show of force but to help process claims after people enter the country unlawfully. Mr. Biden is effectively sending an army of pencil pushers.
The better course of action for the president, his party and the country would be to back a bipartisan legislative extension of Title 42 authority and urge fellow Democrats to do the same. Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona who typically votes with Democrats, have authored a bill that would allow the U.S. to continue expelling illegal immigrants without an asylum hearing for two more years. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) are co-sponsors. Progressives will complain, but several Senate Democrats up for re-election next year—Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jacky Rosen of Nevada—are sympathetic to the idea.
All the Republicans vying to face Mr. Biden in next year’s election stand to benefit politically from his immigration missteps, but none more so than Donald Trump. The former president’s successful elevation of the issue on the campaign trail arguably did more than anything else to rally supporters and put him in the White House, and the southern border is less secure today than when Mr. Trump left office. Even without ever delivering on a border wall paid for by Mexico, his handling of illegal immigration has been one of Mr. Trump’s few political strengths. Democrats are foolish to play to it.