Biden can no longer ignore the border crisis

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Nine months into President Joe Biden’s term, the border crisis is showing no signs of improvement. August was the first time southwest land border encounters did not rise over the previous month, according to Customs and Border Protection figures, but that offers little comfort: It was the second straight month they exceeded 200,000, the highest level in over two decades, four times greater than August 2020.

Biden’s job approval ratings on immigration and border security were among his lowest even when he was relatively popular. He is now underwater on the question of his overall performance, with this issue previewing the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan that sparked his polling decline. “Self-generated crises are hard to defend, and that’s the perception he’s dealing with now,” said a Democratic operative.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott may be Republican collateral damage, as his numbers have also taken a hit since the record migrant surge. But Biden gets more of the blame. A Dallas Morning News/University of Texas poll found that 47% of Texans approved of Abbott’s handling of the issue to just 29% who said the same of Biden. Fifty-two percent disapproved of Biden’s performance on immigration, including 38% who strongly disapproved.

The Haitian migrant surge into Del Rio added a new front to the crisis and also illustrated Biden’s political dilemma. At one point, 15,000 people were streaming into that Texas city, many of them congregating under a bridge in unsanitary conditions. The Democratic mayor demanded Biden’s involvement. “Have you been briefed on the ongoing crisis yet?” he tweeted. By that weekend, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would begin removing some of the migrants.

"The Biden Administration has reiterated that our borders are not open, and people should not make the dangerous journey. Individuals and families are subject to border restrictions, including expulsion," the agency said in a statement. "Irregular migration poses a significant threat to the health and welfare of border communities and to the lives of migrants themselves, and should not be attempted."

Nevertheless, the Biden administration moved swiftly to reverse a series of Trump administration policies designed to control immigration, endorsed legislation that would offer legal status to most illegal immigrants already in the country, and has released many of the migrants who have arrived in the current surge into the country. All of these things have signaled to prospective migrants that they have a reasonable chance of remaining in the U.S. if they can get across the border.

“Surges tend to respond to hope, and there was a significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of, you know, pent-up demand,” Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, then the White House’s point person on the southern border, told reporters in March. “So, I don't know whether I would call that a coincidence, but I certainly think that the idea that a more humane policy would be in place may have driven people to make that decision.” Jacobson has since resigned.

The Haitian migrants worsened the political situation for the White House. The administration was hit first with the images of huddled masses under a bridge and townspeople complaining about the COVID-19 and public safety risks. Then came the pictures of Border Patrol agents on horseback that elicited an outcry from the Left, where many mistook the reins for whips. The use of horses by Border Patrol agents was subsequently suspended.

“It doesn’t matter if a Democrat or Republican is President, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat and a liberal leading light. “Immigration should not be a crime, and its criminalization is a relatively recent invention. This is a stain on our country.”

Allowing border towns to be overrun creates a political problem for Biden insofar as it animates Republicans and turns independents against him. It also adds to the general sense that the 78-year-old Biden is not in control. But anything the administration does to enforce the law will alienate the Left, which increasingly views immigration enforcement as racially discriminatory.

The media coverage of Biden has been forgiving as children have been detained and migrants have coped with sometimes harsh conditions, especially compared to the “kids in cages” storyline under President Donald Trump. But the perception that the administration has treated Haitian migrants with a double standard compared to arrivals from Central America has led to some more probing questions.

“We are continuing to expel people coming from a range of countries,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily White House briefing. “Our border restrictions are being applied not just to Haitians, but to people who are coming irregularly to migrate to the country from anywhere ... we are applying immigration laws.”

“The border is secure. We're executing our plan,” concurred Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in congressional testimony. To most voters, however, those assurances ring hollow.

W. James Antle III is the Washington Examiner’s politics editor.

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Tags: News, White House, Immigration, Border Patrol, Mexico, Haiti, Congress, Democratic Party, Border Security, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Coronavirus, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Texas, Greg Abbott

Original Author: W. James Antle III

Original Location: Biden can no longer ignore the border crisis

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