Too often, mainstream media coverage and commentary regarding border and asylum policies rest on the following assumptions:
- Migration is bad, and more of it is worse;
- If Biden unwinds Trump’s sadistic web of cruelty, it will lead to a ”border crisis” because U.S. immigration policies are the primary driver of regional migration patterns;
- The best way to measure the success or failure of U.S. immigration policies is via monthly border apprehension data.
Trapped in framing set by bad-faith right-wingers and opponents of immigration, the narrative too often goes something like this: there’s an uptick in border apprehensions suggesting a border crisis is at hand as Biden ends Trump’s get-tough policies, creating fears of a political crisis for the new administration.
It’s almost as if the narrative is set, now all that is needed is some facts to back it up.
Too little is said about the more than 1,000 executive actions and administrative changes made by Trump and Miller, all of which were aimed at kicking out and keeping out refugees and immigrants. And too often, the architects and defenders of these unlawful and un-American policies – Stephen Miller, Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli, Tom Homan and Mark Morgan, along with the anti-immigrant groups that supported them during their reign of terror – are asked to comment on the framing they set.
This drumbeat started before Biden became President:
- In August 2020, before Joe Biden won the presidency and five months before he took office, Trump favorite Tom Homan, former Acting ICE Director, went on Fox News to blame an increase in border apprehensions on – who else – Joe Biden. In November, Homan said on Fox, “The cartels are celebrating…The border numbers are already going up because they think Joe Biden is going to be the president… ‘It’s a Biden effect. It’s already happening.’”
- Mark Krikorian of the hardline anti-immigrant group CIS (designated a Hate Group by SPLC) in National Review said in December, before Biden took office: “The Biden Effect at the border — the surge of illegal immigrants expecting to be let in by Democrats — has already begun, with increasing apprehensions of minors and families.”
- Ken Cuccinelli in the Washington Examiner in December, before Biden took office: “…you saw the ‘Trump effect’ when President Trump came into office. You’re going to see the ‘Biden effect’ as well. And it’s going to be the opposite. And they’re feeding that, and it’s really bad for America. It’s going to be a humanitarian problem, particularly in the midst of COVID.”
Once Biden took office, the right-wingers pounced with more ferocity:
- Stephen Miller to Fox News on Sunday, January 31: Biden’s immigration executive actions amount to the “end of all immigration enforcement in the United States…”
- Fox News, February 5: Biden administration’s softer, more welcoming approach will trigger a wave of migrants: Fox News lede: “A perfect storm of events has the Biden administration’s Customs and Border Protection on its heels in parts of Texas, forcing the agency to begin releasing newly arrived illegal immigrants back into U.S. cities as part of a policy known as ‘catch and release.’ … It raises concerns the Biden administration’s softer, more welcoming approach will trigger a wave of migrants from Central America…”
- Fox News headline from February 5: Illegal border crossings jumping back up to ‘crisis’ levels: Former DHS secretary: It quotes former (and unlawfully appointed) Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf stating, “it’s a direct result of some of the things that we have heard this administration do…”
- Breitbart article from February 4: Joe Biden’s ‘Catch and Release’ Policy Opens the Southern Border.
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to rightwing outlet Townhall on February 8: “As part of this administration’s lawless approach to immigration, they have also decided to weaken our security at the border. These actions will only serve to incentivize migrants to flood our southern border…”
The right wingers who brought us the cruel policies are making progress in getting mainstream outlets to run with their narrative:
- Washington Post, December 2, 2020: Biden plans to spurn Trump immigration restrictions, but risk of new border crisis looms.
- New York Times, December 13, 2020: As Biden Prepares to Take Office, a New Rush at the Border.
- Axios, December 14, 2020: Surge in border crossings spells early test for Biden’s immigration plans.
- New York Times, February 6, 2021: Migrant Families Force Biden to Confront New Border Crisis.
- Washington Post, February 21, 2021: Opinion: Biden is moving to end Trump’s inhumane border policies. Can he avoid triggering a new migrant surge?
The evidence for a Biden effect and a new border crisis? Judge for yourself:
The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“First off, let’s be clear. It’s a good thing, not a crisis, that people vote with their feet and come to America. If and when people no longer seek freedom, safety and opportunity in a nation described as a beacon of hope, that will be a crisis – a moral crisis. It will also devastate our economy and standing in the world.
Second, it’s a good thing, not a crisis, that the Biden administration is addressing and unwinding the cruelty and chaos left by four years of sadistic border, asylum and immigration policies authored by Donald Trump and Stephen Miller. If the Biden team were not evaluating every Trump policy and unwinding policies and practices antithetical to who we aspire to be, that would be a crisis.
And it’s a good thing, not a crisis, that the Biden strategy recognizes that migration happens, on balance it’s a good thing, and governments should manage it as best they can with common sense rules that maximize safe, humane and orderly admissions. If refugees are not protected and are forced to return to the dangers they fled – as happened under Trump – that would be a crisis.
People come to America from across the world, seeking safety, freedom and opportunity. This is a strength of ours, not a legacy to run from. Trump and his gang don’t get this ‘American effect.’ Biden and his team do.
As events unfold and Biden puts a regional strategy in place to provide multiple channels of legal migration and refugee protection and, over time, to make migration a matter of choice rather than a matter of life and death, let’s make sure we focus on facts, history, policies and context, and not just a narrow and simplistic frame anchored in fear mongering and racism emanating from a rogue’s gallery of ex-Trump officials and right wing outlets.”