Biden may sign Trump-era immigration executive order. It won't fix Arizona's border issues

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President Joe Biden’s expected hard-right turn on immigration is no magic wand to control the flood of migrants that continue to inundate ports of entry in Arizona — unless he’s ready to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border.

Biden has said as much, even as he is reportedly poised to sign an executive order that would prevent those crossing illegally from seeking asylum.

Talk of this executive action comes on the heels of a failed bipartisan deal that would have closed the border when crossers reach 8,500 in a given day.

What would Biden's executive order entail?

Whatever Biden does on his own won’t work without enormous investment and political maneuvering on both sides of the southern border.

Let’s assume Biden does go nuclear and chooses to deport everyone caught at the border. How will he do that with existing resources?

Where will he deport the foreigners coming from all over the Western hemisphere? Will he try to dump them all on Mexican soil, like Trump did?

Who will stop the migrants from trying again and again to cross illegally and overwhelm the border patrol?

We’ll know details soon enough.

Border Patrol will need sustained resources

People line up against a border wall as they wait to apply for asylum after crossing the border from Mexico on July 11, 2023, near Yuma.
People line up against a border wall as they wait to apply for asylum after crossing the border from Mexico on July 11, 2023, near Yuma.

What we do know already is that massive migration isn’t something anyone can solve by pushing a magic button.

Gone are the days when most migrants the Border Patrol encountered were single men from Mexico or central America looking for work.

In Arizona’s Tucson sector alone, nearly 72,000 families were arrested from Oct. 1 to Dec. 9 — roughly nine times as many as the same period the year before. They are coming from all over the world, from countries like Senegal, Guinea and India, and they are seeking asylum.

Yet the White House won’t get the extra 1,300 border patrol agents it wanted to join the 20,205 funded in the current budget — not to mention the 1,600 additional asylum officers, money for additional detention beds, and 1,470 lawyers and support staff included in the failed border deal.

The legislation also included an array of other funding required to carry out border security and mass deportations.

Border Patrol is not set up to interview and detain thousands of families.

Historically, agents were simply the ones who caught people entering illegally, Amanda Aguirre, president and CEO of the Regional Center for Border Health, told us recently.

Aguirre’s group is one of the few to step up to help unite asylum seekers with their family or sponsors in the U.S., instead of just letting them out on the streets.

Where would a tougher Biden send migrants?

Biden might be counting on Border Patrol expertise to catch people at the border and quickly turn them away. But where would agents send them back to?

Returning all border crossers to Mexico would require cooperation of the Mexican government, which might agree to go along with the right incentives from America.

GOP wants border chaos: Biden fell for it

But that would result in other challenges for both countries. Migrants risking their lives to reach America aren’t going to give up easily — unless they’re returned to their home countries.

If they’re left near the border, they’ll just keep trying until they make it across or, sadly, die in the process, which is a human tragedy.

What’s the solution, then?

Asylum is an ongoing, worldwide problem

Any substantive progress requires sensible people looking at migration as a worldwide problem that landed at our southern border.

It’s not going to go away just because a few politicians say it should.

Unfortunately, any immigration action now amid a high-stakes presidential election will be politically motivated.

Biden’s right turn on immigration is particularly hurtful for voters who sent him to the White House, in part, because he promised “humane” migration and legalization for millions of those already here.

The president not only has turned his back on migrants but appears ready to take a page out of Trump’s playbook: arrest, cage, deport and repeat.

Elvia Díaz is editorial page editor for The Arizona Republic and azcentral. Reach her at 602-444-8606 or Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, @elviadiaz1

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Biden executive order is no magic wand to fix Arizona's border