While I have been critical of President Biden’s border policies since more than a year before he took office, the chorus is getting louder. The latest, and one of the surprisingly loudest voices, is that of the editors at Bloomberg Opinion, which on August 3 published a piece captioned “Biden’s Border Fiasco Is Expanding”. Their points are well taken, but their call for White House “leadership” to bring the border under control will likely fall on deaf ears.
Bloomberg. Bloomberg ”describes itself, modestly, as “the global leader in business and financial data, news and insight”. Its Media Group, in turn, asserts it’s “the world’s largest business news organization”, sitting “inside the world’s largest data intelligence machine: intelligence that enables us to see a world that others can’t – or don’t”.
AllSides gives Bloomberg a “Lean Left” Media Bias Rating, which sounds about right. Nonetheless, this is not the first time that the editors at Bloomberg Opinion have offered a negative take on Biden’s border performance.
Back in January, they put the blame for the situation at the Southwest border squarely on the president, opining: “Biden’s rush to undo any immigration policies associated with his predecessor has contributed to upheaval at the border and encouraged more people to risk their lives trying to reach the U.S.”
Bloomberg Opinion’s Criticisms of the Administration’s Border Policies. This new opinion piece sounds many of the same themes, only with a more desperate tone.
Citing the massive recent influx of CBP encounters at the Southwest border, “distinctive catastrophes” such as an incident in San Antonio in which 53 migrants were found dead or near death in a crowded truck trailer, and “a host of related problems” including a surge in drug trafficking and a rush of unaccompanied alien children at the Southwest border, the editors assert: “These trends are very unlikely to improve without bold action”. All demonstrably true.
But then, it gets interesting. They contend the Trump administration (which they describe-- inaptly-- as having a “generally cruel and incompetent approach to the border”) attempted to respond to a rush of migrants at the border by implementing “contiguous territory” returns via “Remain in Mexico” (allowing DHS to send illegal entrants back across the border to await their removal hearings) and CDC orders under Title 42 of the U.S. Code directing the expulsion of illegal migrants in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As an aside, while the editors are correct that Remain in Mexico-- formally the “Migrant Protection Protocols” or “MPP”-- was a (successful) Trump policy to curb illegal entries and thus give Border Patrol agents some breathing room to address drug smugglers and human traffickers, Title 42 is purely a public-health measure. It may have had the added effect of deterring illegal entrants, but that was never its express or—I would argue—implied intent.
That said, however, the editors correctly assert that Biden has “been trying to shut down both programs since the start of his presidency, without specifying plausible alternatives”.
They are also spot-on in deriding Biden’s attempts to cut border enforcement funding; his attempts to publish “an ill-conceived reform structure” (read: “amnesty”) “that seemed to act as an invitation for further migration without laying the necessary groundwork; and his deputization of Vice President Kamala Harris—“who has spent just three days in Latin America over 16 months”—to helm the administration’s response to the border crisis.
The Editors' Naivete. Rather naïvely, however, the editors then contend: “Such inattention has allowed obvious problems at the border to fester, while giving unauthorized migrants the false hope that they’ll be allowed entry to the US”.
Why is that statement “naïve”?
Taking the second point first, for more than 1.129 million aliens encountered by CBP at the Southwest border under the Biden administration (as of the end of June), entry into the United States—which is what they came here illegally to obtain—was what the president delivered. They have been released into the interior (in contravention of a Congressional requirement that they be detained), and are likely going to remain here indefinitely, if not forever.
The other, more major problem with that statement is that the editorial board at Bloomberg Opinion apparently fails to appreciate that deterring illegal entries at the Southwest border is not Biden administration policy, reversing the trend of every prior administration in history.
I have no reason to believe (and seriously doubt) that the president wants tons of deadly drugs to flow from foreign cartels to American users, or that he wants to encourage higher levels of migrants risking their lives to enter illegally.
Those ills, however, are seemingly simple collateral damage resulting from the Biden administration’s desire to ensure that every foreign national who can make it to U.S. soil is allowed to apply for asylum, regardless of how many years that process will take or even whether those migrants have ever asked for asylum.
The drugs, the kids, the risks of illegal entry are certainly not features of this plan, but thus far the administration has considered them acceptable “bugs” in its system. That is why the administration has stopped detaining alien families, and is asking Congress for 25 percent fewer detention beds in its FY 2023 congressional budget request.
A Call for “Remain in Mexico”. As curious (and naïve) as the Bloomberg Opinion piece is in its sharp criticisms of Biden’s border policy, however, it becomes even curiouser in its request that the administration reinstate Remain in Mexico, which it refers to as the most sensible “of the imperfect options available”.
It contends that the White House has “begrudgingly” been “working with the Mexican government to improve this program, including by the hiring of immigration judges to speed case reviews and providing migrants with more lawyers”.
As a second aside, I would note that neither the hiring of immigration judges nor the provision of private lawyers requires the input of the federal authorities in Mexico City, and moreover that the hiring of immigration counsel for aliens at government expense is not authorized by the Immigration and Nationality Act or any other provision in U.S. law with which I am familiar.
That said, however, more immigration judges would speed the process along, provided that those judges were assigned to courts to hear cases of aliens in MPP.
That description of the Biden administration’s reimplementation of “contiguous territory” returns like Remain in Mexico, however, overlooks the fact that the president’s efforts have not only been “begrudging”, but up until recently have been court-ordered, by the federal district court judge hearing Biden v. Texas, a suit filed by the states of Texas and Missouri to force Biden to restart MPP.
Not only has the Biden administration shown no interest in voluntarily continuing Remain in Mexico, but in an October 29 memo, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that he would terminate the program “as soon as practicable after a final judicial decision to vacate” the district court’s order was issued. That, we now know, happened on August 1.
It is possible that the district court will vacate that memo on remand from the Supreme Court, but until that happens (and the hopes of Bloomberg Opinion notwithstanding), I have no reason to believe that the Biden administration will resuscitate MPP, “begrudgingly or otherwise”.
Nonetheless, the Bloomberg editors suggest that it could be improved by ensuring that migrants subject to that program “have safe housing and job opportunities” and by reducing the distance migrants must travel to appear in court. Those are pipe dreams, but I have made many similar recommendations to improve Remain in Mexico in response to the administration’s complaints about the program.
Expansion of Guest Worker Programs and Enforcement Improvements. “Longer term”, the editors opine, the United States “needs comprehensive reforms that would pair increased funding for law enforcement and immigration courts with an expanded guest-worker program, which”, it contends, “would relieve labor shortages in the agriculture and food-producing industries”.
I suppose that one would expect “the global leader in business and financial data” with a left-leaning bent to militate in favor of more cheap labor, but I would refer the editors to the recent analyses by my colleagues, Steven Camarota and Karen Ziegler, on the low labor participation rate in every U.S. state, and in particular their explanation that:
The share of working-age (16-64) U.S.-born Americans in the labor force — working or looking for work — in every single state was lower in the first quarter of 2022 than in the first quarter of 2000. The average decline was 4.1 percentage points, which is a large change.
In other words, there is plenty of untapped labor in the United States, and expanded guest worker programs would simply make jobs “in the agriculture and food-producing industries” even less attractive to Americans (both citizens and legal immigrants) who are not currently in the work force.
The call for more law enforcement resources is welcome, but Bloomberg Opinion apparently fails to appreciate that the Biden administration is simply, through its enforcement “prioritization” guidelines, deliberately wasting the immigration-enforcement resources it has, as the Fifth Circuit recently held.
Again, the editors seem to think that the Biden administration would enforce the immigration laws if only it had the funding and the officers to do so, but the exact opposite appears to be true. The administration has deliberately hamstrung enforcement, and the subsequent lawlessness that has ensued is simply, again, “collateral damage”.
A Call for “Leadership”. The editors close with a plea for “leadership” to address “the problems at the southern border”, which it describes as “complex but not unsolvable”.
In reality, the problems at the U.S.-Mexico border are not complex, and are eminently solvable, if only the administration had the will to do so. It not only doesn’t have the will—it doesn’t have any interest in slowing the migrant flow (which Mayorkas himself has admitted), and is seemingly, again, willing to accept the drug and human smuggling and the risks to migrants that have flowed from that decision.
The issue is not “leadership”, per se (Biden has led the border to its current state), but rather the sort of leadership and willingness from the White House to enforce the laws Congress has written. Thus far, it has shown neither, and no institution—not the courts, Congress, or even Bloomberg Opinion—has forced it to do so. Only the voters, who hold the real power, can do that.