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“Worst of All Worlds” – Why Biden’s Border and Immigration Policies Need a Reset

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Must-read Catherine Rampell column on the Biden immigration and border record after one year

Washington, DC – A must-read column from the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell, “A year into his presidency, Biden has kept some of Trump’s worst immigration policies in place. Why?” captures the dispiriting reality of the Biden Administration’s border and immigration policies and the related political dynamics. 

In an attempt to tamp down xenophobic right wing political attacks, the Biden Administration has maintained numerous Trump policies along the border, only to continue to be attacked by the rabid right wing media. In conjunction with the failures to deliver legislative progress on immigration on Capitol Hill, it’s a dynamic that is in desperate need for a policy and political reset.

See key excerpts of the new Catherine Rampell column below (available in full here).

Heading into the November midterms, Republicans plan to use President Biden’s immigration record against him. So declared former Trump administration official and infamous xenophobe Stephen Miller in a recent CNN interview. Republican politicians nationwide have already begun running against Biden’s alleged ‘open borders’ policies to bolster their campaigns and careers.

It all raises a question: What, exactly, are these nativists unhappy with? In many respects, Biden is doing exactly what the Stephen Millers of the world want him to do — keeping Donald Trump’s worst border policies in place.

A year into his presidency, Biden has made relatively little progress rebuilding the U.S. immigration system, particularly when one considers his soaring pro-immigrant campaign rhetoric.

… To their credit, Biden officials have reversed some of the cruel — and stupid — bureaucratic obstacles that Miller and Trump littered across the system … But these are, mostly, obscure policy changes or unrealized proposals. When Miller et al. condemn Biden’s ‘immigration record,’ they zero in on his decisions at the Southern border.

Which is, frankly, odd. You’d never know it from the right-wing hysteria about Biden’s supposedly ‘open borders,’ or Biden’s own campaign promise to ‘end Trump’s detrimental asylum policies.’ But Biden has continued Trump’s most restrictionist, inhumane and possibly illegal border policies. In some cases Biden has even expanded them … The disconnect between GOP claims about ‘open borders’ and Biden’s actually-quite-Trumpy border policies, is enormous. 

… It’s unclear why Biden has maintained his predecessor’s policies. One possibility is politics — that these choices were intended to stave off right-wing attacks about lax enforcement. If that was the motivation, though, it failed. Instead, Biden has delivered the worst of all worlds: inhumane, immoral, potentially illegal policy — and bad-faith political blowback about ‘open borders’ all the same.

According to Vanessa Cardenas, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

The Biden administration inherited a cruel and chaotic set of immigration and border policies from the Trump regime. Instead of the sweeping reforms and sharp contrasts that they promised to deliver, the Biden team has been scared by the political attacks of a rabid right wing media world and xenophobic Republicans who are intent on attacking Democrats on immigration regardless of the facts or their actual policies.

Now, as the Biden administration starts year two and looks ahead to the midterms, the best way forward on policy is their best way forward politically: deliver on promises; establish a workable legal system for asylum seekers, refugees and workers; lean into legal immigration and legal status for undocumented immigrants, both of which are solidly supported by the American people; and offer a real and clear alternative to Republicans’ xenophobia and Trump’s cruelty and chaos.

Biden and Democrats can blunt right-wing attacks and help energize their base and swing voters if they step up and lean in to define and defend their solutions. Instead, they seem to be cowering in fear of right wing attacks that are going to come no matter what the administration says or does.