Even before Joe Biden took office, Republicans were scheming about how they could take advantage of the border situation that President Trump made worse in order to damage the incoming president and win victory in the next midterm elections.
Politico’s Anita Kumar reports about a border trip by Republicans before Biden took office: “The conversations around the trip were some of the earliest indications that Republicans anticipated the spike in migrants crossing the border—due to seasonal patterns and regional crises—and planned to use it as a political cudgel to try to retake Congress in the midterm elections.”
And that some of the problems were “set in motion—through policy choices and political calculations—by [Biden’s] opponents before he even stepped foot in the Oval Office.”
While right-wing media, anti-immigrant hardliners in Congress, and GOP operatives continue to falsely blame the Biden administration for an uptick in border crossings, the reality is that the previous administration intentionally weakened the system that President Biden is now trying to fix.
Here’s how they did it:
Trump sabotaged the Biden administration by refusing to increase shelter space for unaccompanied kids in lead up to inauguration.
- In December 2020, NBC News reported that Biden transition members began sounding the alarm on the need to increase shelter space for migrant children but the Trump administration did not take action until just days before the inauguration.
Trump hollowed out the infrastructure needed to process families and children in an orderly and humane way, creating huge backlogs that allow the system to become easily overwhelmed—as we are seeing today.
- Nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center TRAC reports that the Trump administration left President Biden with as many as 1.3 million cases backlogged in immigration courts.
- The Council on Foreign Relations says that “the [Biden] administration has inherited a migration system in crisis. The institutional capacity of immigration courts and other parts of the bureaucracy to humanely manage caseloads has eroded. It will take time and money to clear the backload of more than 1.2 million pending immigration cases and put back into place working asylum processes. The pandemic has made managing these flows and the containment of people all the harder.”
- The number of days it took to complete a court case hit a 10-year high over the first two years of Trump’s presidency, according to Politico. A 2019 analysis of court data by The Marshall Project found that the immigration court backlog had grown “at a rate almost three times that of new cases coming into the courts.”
- From Politico: “According to interviews with judges, lawyers and court staff, many of the moves by the administration—designed to accelerate the courts and eliminate policies from Obama—have slowed them even more, making it harder for judges to move cases efficiently, extending processing times and compounding a nationwide backlog that has grown by 68 percent under President Trump to nearly 877,000 cases.”
- From Politico: “In the busiest courts, including New York, Los Angeles and Houston, some judges are scheduling hearings to decide cases in 2023, since their calendars are entirely booked for four years out.”
Trump’s policies actually increased migration by increasing the instability in Central America that forces families to flee, and ending a program that allowed children escaping violence to apply from their home countries. That’s why the current increase in border encounters started last April under Trump.
- In 2019, Trump slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Reuters reported that “Congressional aides said the administration told them it would reallocate $370 million in aid to Central America that lawmakers had approved for fiscal 2018, and suspend an additional $180 million Congress had approved for fiscal 2017.”
- In 2019, NPR reported that Trump’s freezing of aid to Guatemala ended a funding program whose youth reported a 30% drop in seriously considering migrating after participating.
- The Trump administration ended the Central American Minors program, which allowed children from three violence-ridden Central American countries to seek asylum without attempting to cross the border.
The Trump Administration left a backlog of 25,000 asylum seekers living in horrific conditions in tent cities—on top of the normal flow of asylum seekers.
- The Trump administration’s Remain In Mexico Program left 25,000 asylum seekers outside of the U.S. Reporting from the Los Angeles Times in February showed that 800 migrants at the Matamoros camp, many of whom arrived under Trump’s program, were left in limbo.
- More than 60,000 migrants were sent back to await asylum decisions and thousands of them were living in tent cities. Vox reported in 2020 that under Trump, “More than 60,000 migrants have been sent back to await decisions on their US asylum applications. Thousands of them have been living for months in makeshift encampments, where they rely on volunteers for basic necessities, are targeted by criminal gangs, and have little means to deal with the current public health crisis.”