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The Biden Policies That Transformed America’s Borders

Posted on Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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by Outside Contributor
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WASHINGTON—President Joe Biden took office with a commitment to overturn the previous administration’s immigration policies, calling them “cruel and reckless.” He emphasized that his plan would establish a “fair, orderly, and humane” immigration system while implementing smarter measures to secure the border.

But his administration is now grappling with a historic crisis.

Republicans blame President Biden for eliminating and reversing policies put in place by the Trump administration.

Many people, including those in the liberal media, have also pointed fingers at the Biden administration for the crisis that has now spread to large cities around the country.

Polling suggests that American voters trust former President Donald Trump—the Republican frontrunner in November’s election—more than President Biden on immigration and border-security issues. According to the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of Americans, including 73 percent of Democrats, think the U.S. government has done a bad job of handling the illegal immigrant influx.

The illegal immigrant surge has escalated significantly throughout President Biden’s presidency, shattering record after record. The past six months of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data show it’s getting worse.

As taxpayer expenses pile up, communities nationwide are feeling the strain. And there seems to be no end in sight.

So how did we get here?

2019: The Campaign Trail

President Biden’s pledges to potential illegal immigrants began early in his campaign.

During a Democratic primary debate on June 27, 2019, candidate Biden raised his hand when the host asked if his government health care plan would provide coverage for illegal immigrants.

He raised his hand again when the host said, “Raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation.”

The host then specifically asked Mr. Biden if someone who is here illegally should be deported if that is his or her only offense.

“That person should not be the focus of deportation,” Mr. Biden responded.

A couple of months later, during another debate on Sept. 12, 2019, Mr. Biden said: “I would, in fact, make sure that there is, that we immediately surge to the border all those people who are seeking asylum. They deserve to be heard. That’s who we are. We’re a nation that says, ‘If you want to flee, and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come.’”

January 2021: Biden Ends National Emergency

To fulfill his campaign promises, President Biden has implemented more than 500 actions on immigration in the first three years of his presidency, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

To better understand the reasons behind the surge at the southern border, critics say, it’s important to review the actions the president took on his first day in office.

On Jan. 20, 2021, President Biden ended President Trump’s national emergency declaration on the border, which called for the construction of a border wall.

President Biden halted the construction, calling it “a waste of money.” He also declared that no more taxpayer dollars would be diverted to wall-construction projects, despite already-allocated congressional funds for the project.

He also reversed a ban on travelers from terror-prone countries. The ban, imposed during the Trump administration, barred people from entering the United States from certain terror hotspots that didn’t provide robust security background checks on prospective travelers. President Biden stated that these bans were inconsistent with American values.
A few months later, The Epoch Times reported that Border Patrol agents had apprehended two Yemeni men who were on the FBI’s terrorism watch list and the no-fly list.
 
Also on his first day in office, President Biden suspended deportations of illegal aliens for 100 days. The policy applied to almost everyone who entered the country illegally before November 2020. A week later, however, a federal judge in Texas blocked the policy.
 
With another executive order issued on his first day in office, the president strengthened the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for children who were brought into the country illegally.

On day one, the administration also stopped adding illegal immigrants to the “Remain in Mexico” program. The Trump administration implemented the program, which required asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico until their U.S. immigration court date, at end of 2019. The program has been touted by border-security advocates as the most effective for stemming illegal immigration because it ended “catch-and-release,” the practice in which illegal immigrants are released into the interior of the United States with a court date potentially many years down the road.

Biden Introduces Immigration Reform Plan

On his first day in office, President Biden introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which he referred to as a “comprehensive immigration reform plan.” The bill included an array of changes to existing law that would have made it quicker and easier for those who enter the country legally to gain citizenship and, in a sweeping amnesty, would have provided a pathway to citizenship for millions of people who had entered the country illegally.

The bill offered little to decrease the flow of illegal immigrants into the country apart from requiring the Department of State to “advance reforms in Central America” to address the reasons people are migrating to the United States and to create refugee-processing centers in the region.

President Biden has said Republicans in Congress blocked the bill. But Democrats, who controlled both the House and the Senate in 2021, made no apparent effort to advance the bill, and it died in committee in both chambers, never receiving a hearing.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, slammed President Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, calling it “the most radical piece of immigration legislation” and saying that it seeks to reward illegal aliens at the expense of Americans.

In a report, the organization criticized the bill for prioritizing “illegal aliens, smugglers, cartels, and gangs” over border security.

February 2021: New Asylum Policy

Thirteen days later, President Biden signed three more orders, including loosening the criteria for asylum. He announced the restoration of asylum processing at the border and the creation of a task force to reunify any remaining families that were separated during the previous administration.

The new orders on Feb. 2 also included reversing the Trump administration’s public charge rule and developing a strategy to address “irregular migration across the southern border.”

The public charge rule required family sponsors to repay the government if noncitizen relatives received public benefits.

Republicans have blamed the Biden administration for encouraging illegal immigration by signaling a lax border policy through these executive orders.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials announced new interim guidelines on Feb. 18 for handling the arrest, detainment, and deportation of illegal immigrants.

DHS said the three priority criteria—national security, border security, and public safety—outlined in the interim guidelines are effective immediately for all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions.

Any ICE agent who encounters an illegal immigrant who falls outside of the three categories must get preapproval from his field office before taking any action, a DHS official said, and he must consider the following criteria: the nature and recency of a non-citizen’s convictions, the type and length of sentences imposed, whether the enforcement action is otherwise an appropriate use of ICE’s limited resources, and other relevant factors, including mitigating factors.

The mitigating factors, the official said, include consideration as to whether “someone might be suffering from serious physical or mental illness.”

“We want [ICE agents] to think about ties to the community, whether the individual has family here in the United States, U.S. citizen family members, and other considerations,” he said.

March 2021: Biden’s First Political Test

President Biden promised to develop a more humane and efficient immigration system, but this promise met with a significant test less than two months into his term with a rapid influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally.

In March 2020, the Trump administration began using the COVID-19 emergency measure Title 42 to allow U.S. authorities to quickly expel illegal immigrants.

When President Biden took office, he announced that children would not be subject to the Title 42 health order. A significant uptick in unaccompanied minors was observed soon after that announcement.

Some Democrats and policy experts at the time blamed President Trump for the uptick.

Ruth Wasem, a professor of public policy at the University of Texas at Austin, argued that the spikes were attributable to a migration backlog caused by President Trump’s rigid immigration policies.

“Trump basically shut down our immigration system and ended the laws on the books,” Ms. Wasem told PolitiFact in March 2021. “So there’s going to be a pent-up number of people that were waiting to come, or that were en route.”
 
Yet, after images of unaccompanied minors in overcrowded shelters appeared in the media, President Biden found himself under fire from all sides.
 
“The situation we are currently facing at the southwest border is a difficult one,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a lengthy statement in March 2021. “We are tackling it. We are keeping our borders secure, enforcing our laws, and staying true to our values and principles.”
February 2021 saw 9,400 unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, being apprehended, almost doubling the numbers from the prior months. By March 2021, the reported number had almost reached 19,000. The Epoch Times reported at the time that the average cost to care for one child in a temporary emergency facility had increased to $775 per day.
The influx of unaccompanied children has persisted in the following years, creating substantial logistical and humanitarian challenges for the administration. Since President Biden took office, the Department of Health and Human Services has received more than 370,500 unaccompanied minors, according to the agency. The department has been sheltering these children until they’re placed with a sponsor in the United States.
 
A New York Times report last year revealed that the agency had lost contact with one-third of illegal immigrant children since they began living with their U.S. sponsors. Some of them have ended up working dangerous factory jobs in the United States, according to the report.
Some critics argue that President Biden’s policies have also worsened human and drug trafficking. According to a study from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, 60 percent of unaccompanied children are caught by cartels and exploited for child pornography or drug trafficking.

By the end of March, the Biden administration had moved away from sending family units back across the border using Title 42.

The Epoch Times reported at the time that the vast majority (upward of 85 percent) of family units apprehended by Border Patrol after crossing the border illegally were quickly released into the United States.

President Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris as “border czar.” Her role was to lead the effort to stem the flow of illegal immigration by addressing the “root causes” of migration from Central America and Mexico.

April 2021: ICE Deportations Plunge

The number of deportations conducted by ICE in April 2021 reached a historic low despite a surge in illegal crossings.

ICE carried out 2,962 deportations in April, excluding Title 42 expulsions, showcasing the limitations imposed on the agency by the Biden administration. During March, more than 172,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended along the southern border.

June 2021: Migrant Deaths Surge

With the rise in illegal immigration, the number of deaths also increased. In June, 109 bodies were recovered by Border Patrol, up from 61 in May. The majority of deaths over the summer months were due to dehydration and hyperthermia.

During President Biden’s first two years in office, deaths of illegal immigrants hit a record high. CBP recorded a total of 880 illegal immigrant deaths in fiscal year 2022, the highest number of deaths since data became available in 1998. The second-highest number on record was fiscal year 2021, with 566 deaths.

Fall 2021: False Information and Loss of Trust

President Biden’s border policies began to strain Border Patrol agents, leading to a significant drop in morale. Some even contemplated quitting their jobs or retiring earlier than planned.

The frustration among border agents escalated in September 2021 after the Biden administration falsely accused several officers on horseback in Del Rio, Texas, of “whipping” Haitian immigrants.

DHS Secretary Mayorkas had evidence that the claim was false, but he didn’t attempt to correct the record during a press briefing at the White House. He called the images depicting the alleged abuse “horrifying” and tied them to “systemic racism.”

President Biden also blamed the horse-patrol agents, calling the incident “outrageous.”

“There will be consequences,” he told reporters. “It’s an embarrassment. But beyond embarrassment, it’s dangerous; it’s wrong.”

An internal review released in July of the following year, however, found “no evidence” that agents “struck any person, intentionally or otherwise.”

Although the investigation ultimately cleared the agents of whipping, four agents faced disciplinary action for endangering illegal immigrants. Some reports suggest that the president’s and Mr. Mayorkas’s false statements have undermined faith in Border Patrol agents.

“The president accused them of a criminal act. He has not apologized for that,” Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told The Epoch Times following the internal review.

The public’s opinion of President Biden’s immigration policies also began to decline in the fall of 2021. The dip in approval was especially noticeable among black and Hispanic Americans, according to an AP-NORC (National Opinion Research Center) poll.

Biden Reverses More Trump-Era Policies

In the months that followed, President Biden continued to reverse the previous administration’s measures, which caused the number of illegal border crossings to skyrocket.

On Aug. 24, the Supreme Court ordered the Biden administration to restart the Remain in Mexico program. DHS responded in a press release the same day that it would “comply with the order in good faith” while it appealed the precipitating Fifth Circuit ruling.

Nine days after the top court’s ruling, several Border Patrol agents told The Epoch Times that no notice had come down from Washington about restarting the program. The officers also said they hadn’t been instructed to add enrollees.

In October 2021, Mr. Mayorkas issued a memo repealing the Remain in Mexico program in its entirety. Mr. Mayorkas claimed that asylum-seekers had been “exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico” under the scheme.

In the 2021 fiscal year, CBP reported more than 1.9 million encounters with illegal immigrants nationwide—more than quadruple the number in fiscal 2020.

By the end of October, ICE had lost contact with at least 47,000 illegal immigrants out of 104,000 who had been issued a “notice to report” and then released into the United States. The notice to report instructs illegal immigrants to report to a local ICE office within 60 days, where each would be given a “notice to appear” containing a date for an immigration court hearing. Normally, illegal immigrants should be given notices to appear before they’re released at the border.

In November 2021, the DHS created an “alternatives to detention” program to ease overcrowding in detention facilities. These alternatives included electronic ankle bracelets, phone monitoring, and in-person check-ins by immigration officers.

April 2022: Crisis Spreads to Big Cities

The crisis soon began to spread to other parts of the nation.

In April 2022, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, began transporting illegal immigrants to Democrat-run “sanctuary” cities, including Washington, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles.

Mr. Abbott expressed his frustration with the Biden administration’s open-border policies, calling them “reckless.”

“I have directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to deploy additional buses to send these migrants to self-declared sanctuary cities and provide much-needed relief to our overrun border towns,” he said in a statement at the time.

Since then, he has transported more than 100,000 illegal immigrants from Texas to so-called sanctuary cities. Some illegal immigrants were dropped off in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence in Washington.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, followed suit, allocating $12 million in June 2022 to create a program for transporting illegal immigrants out of Florida.

On Sept. 14, 2022, Mr. DeSantis made headlines after he sent 50 illegal immigrants by plane to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, a popular vacation island where former President Barack Obama resides.

The White House criticized the governors of Texas and Florida, calling their actions a “political stunt.” Nevertheless, some believe they helped heighten national awareness about the magnitude of the crisis at the southern border.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) recently slammed the Texas governor, calling him “immoral.”

“He’s sending them to Chicago with nothing but the shirt on their back in many cases, dropping them off in the middle of the night at bus stops and train stations in Chicago when the temperature is below freezing,” he told The Epoch Times on Feb. 8 during the annual House Democratic caucus retreat.

“It’s a moral failure by the governor.”

May 2022: Border Patrol Uses Rare ‘Parole’ Exemption

In May 2022, The Epoch Times reported that Border Patrol had begun to employ, on a mass scale, a special “parole” exception that was previously used sparingly. Parole allows illegal immigrants to stay in the United States for at least a year. The government granted humanitarian parole to tens of thousands of individuals fleeing countries like Afghanistan, Ukraine, Haiti, and Venezuela.

The parole designation made it possible for overwhelmed Border Patrol stations to process large numbers of illegal aliens and release them into the country much faster than the previous system allowed.

At the time, the Center for Immigration Studies argued that utilizing parole authority on a large scale goes against what Congress intended, labeling it as a “misuse and abuse” of immigration authority by the administration.

The administration has admitted more than 1 million illegal immigrants into the United States under its parole authority over the past three years, CBS reported in January, citing internal government data.

According to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based research institute, the Biden administration’s policies gave illegal immigrants an “open invitation” to the United States.

“Announcing and then implementing a massive catch-and-release policy, along with using parole authority to bring in hundreds of thousands of individuals without visas—it truly is an open door,” she told The Epoch Times. “That message has been received loud and clear. And that’s why people keep coming in larger and larger numbers.”

By the end of fiscal 2022, DHS agencies had issued more than 255,000 smartphones to illegal immigrants. The phones are trackable, and each recipient is responsible for checking in regularly with ICE, often by sending in a geo-tagged photo of themselves.

The cost for the 255,602 phones and their accompanying technology is $245,377 per day. That’s $89.6 million per year.

The majority of the phones were issued to single adults.

May 2023: Title 42 Ends and Things Get Worse

In fiscal 2022, U.S. border authorities encountered more than 2.7 million illegal immigrants nationwide, marking a more than 40 percent increase from the previous year. 2023 brought more challenges.

In May 2023, the administration ended Title 42 restrictions at the border. Mr. Mayorkas predicted at the time that there would be a flood of illegal immigrants following the expiration of the policy, which had allowed U.S. authorities to turn away most border-crossers due to the pandemic although it had already exempted large groups of illegal immigrants.

At first, arrivals at the border decreased, but after a few months, the trend reversed, and individuals began to come in even greater numbers from even more countries, according to Ms. Vaughan.

Also in May, CBP announced changes to its phone app, known as CBP One, to expand the number of appointments available for asylum-seekers. Migrants who obtain a CBP One appointment while in Mexico can apply for a work permit after being released from U.S. custody.

However, a few months after the announcement, reports surfaced that cartels and smugglers had co-opted the app to speed up the process of bringing people and illicit goods into the United States.

In fiscal 2023, there were nearly 3.2 million illegal crossings nationwide, the highest annual total on record.

ICE deported only 142,580 illegal immigrants that year, or less than 5 percent of all illegal immigrants encountered.

August 2023: Blame Game Heats Up

Large cities, including New York City, were overwhelmed by the influx of illegal immigrants, spending billions of dollars on shelter, food, and other services to accommodate them.

Democratic governors and mayors began pressuring President Biden to provide financial support and take action to tackle the immigration and border crises.

“This crisis originated with the federal government, and it must be resolved through the federal government,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said in a news conference in August 2023.

The White House, however, blamed Republicans for withholding the necessary funding to fix the immigration system.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency in August 2023 due to the rapid increase in illegal immigrants arriving in the state. She criticized the administration’s handling of the situation, calling it a “federal crisis of inaction.”

That same month, reports also surfaced that a smuggler with ties to ISIS helped more than a dozen Uzbek nationals enter the United States from Mexico, raising alarms throughout the government. The White House confirmed these reports, stating that the FBI was still investigating the individuals as potential criminal threats.

New York City had received more than 175,000 illegal immigrants in the previous two years.

During a town hall meeting in September 2023, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, expressed his concerns about the lack of support from the Biden administration.

“I don’t see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City,” Mr. Adams said

Illegal crossings have surpassed 8.8 million nationwide since President Biden assumed office.

Currently, U.S. immigration courts are facing a backlog of more than 3.3 million cases, with 1.1 million of them related to asylum applications, according to immigration data tracked by Syracuse University.

Meanwhile, the administration has sued Texas over several actions the state has taken to secure its border—including adding a string of buoys in the middle of the Rio Grande to stop illegal crossings, and fortifying a common crossing area in Eagle Pass.

The administration also sued Arizona in 2022, forcing the state to remove shipping containers it had used to fill a 1,000-foot gap in the border fence.

What’s Next?

President Biden has said he lacks both the funding and the authority to secure the southern border. Regarding the immigration and border-security bill recently negotiated in the Senate, he said, “If that bill were the law today, I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.”

However, Republicans walked away from a Senate border deal earlier this month, arguing that its provisions weren’t strong enough.

Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.) expressed his disappointment over the Senate’s failure to pass the bill. He told The Epoch Times that Republicans have displayed a variety of reactions to the proposal, even after Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a staunch conservative, engaged in weeks-long negotiations to draft the bill.

“These were serious negotiations with serious people in the room. I thought they reached the right compromise,” Mr. Stanton said.

His colleague, Mr. Schneider, agreed and added: “Virtually all of the provisions that were included in the border package were the demands of the Republicans. Either they weren’t dealing in good faith, or they weren’t willing to take yes for an answer.

“We desperately need to reform our immigration system and shore up our border security. Those two things go hand in glove.”

Some policy experts, however, say the Senate bill didn’t provide the tools necessary to address the border crisis.

“It would actually codify a lot of the disastrous policies that the Biden administration has put in place that caused the border crisis. So it was a failure on the part of the Republican negotiator,” Ms. Vaughan said.

Lora Ries, director of the Border Security and Immigration Center at The Heritage Foundation, agreed, adding that the Senate bill would have “[enticed] more asylum fraud and more illegal immigration.”

“The bill would increase and continue a lot of the asylum fraud, in part, because it would issue work permits even faster to illegal aliens after they are released,” she said during a press call on Feb. 6.

The president has blamed House Republicans’ opposition to the Senate deal, which would give him more emergency authority. He said he had exhausted all available options.

“I’ve done all I can do,” President Biden told reporters on Jan. 30, when asked about whether he had fully used his executive authority to address the influx into the country. “Just give me the power. I’ve asked from the very day I got into office. Give me the Border Patrol. Give me the people, the judges. Give me the people who can stop this and make it work right.”

Some Republicans, however, have scoffed at the idea that more money and additional legislation are needed to secure the border.

“What he’s asking for is money for more agents to process illegals and bring them into the country, not [to] protect the border,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) wrote on X on Jan. 3.

At issue are court rulings holding that family units may not be detained for more than about three weeks, and a law stating that unaccompanied children must be admitted into the country, cared for, and resettled. Also, immigration officials do not have funding to create more detention facilities.

But there are solutions to this problem within the president’s reach, according to Ms. Vaughan.

“The law also says that anyone who crosses illegally shall be detained until their case can be dealt with. And if there are not enough resources to detain everyone, they can be sent back to Mexico to await their hearing, and they can have a stricter interpretation of who is eligible to pursue an asylum claim,” she said.

That was the essence of President Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy, which the Biden administration abandoned.

In essence, the president has discretion in enforcing the law, Ms. Vaughan said.

“Our Constitution says that immigration policy is the domain of the federal government and that federal law trumps state laws, and also that a law-enforcement agency cannot be forced to bring charges against any individual,” she said.

“There’s this principle called prosecutorial discretion, [which holds] that you can’t make the federal government enforce laws that it doesn’t want to.”

So although the law currently includes some contradictions, it should allow for President Biden to reduce the flow of illegal immigration by tightening the criteria for applying for asylum and deporting illegal immigrants when detention facilities become overcrowded.

As the chances of passing a border bill through Congress decline, President Biden is weighing whether to issue executive actions instead, according to recent media reports. The primary action under consideration is to restrict illegal immigrants’ ability to seek asylum at the southern border. President Biden, however, faces another challenge, as these reports have enraged the progressive wing of his party.

According to a recent Morning Consult survey, 84 percent of voters in key battleground states say the immigration issue will be “important” in their decision on how to vote in the November election. If this problem persists, it could pose a greater political risk for President Biden in the coming months.
 
 
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AMAC or AMAC Action.
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anna hubert
anna hubert
1 month ago

This problem like all the others we are facing now started decades ago when policies were implemented without anyone checking even once how or if they are working It all accumulated over decades of ignoring the facts that it no longer can be ignored All the chickens that hatched under government unwatchful eye came home to roost There is not one government program that has been a success And quiet few decisions that are disastrous Border is a catastrophic failure If all or it is by design then of course Trump had to go and must never come back

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