NBC News: Biden Plotting Immigration Changes — After the Midterms

Not the kind that we need, or the kind many want

By Andrew R. Arthur on October 7, 2022

NBC News announced this week that “The White House is discussing a push around immigration — after the midterms”. I began reading in anticipation that the president plans to reverse the policies that have led to nearly 600,000 “got-aways” — illegal entrants who evaded detection — on top of two million-plus Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border this fiscal year. But no, the administration isn’t planning those sorts of changes, opting instead for more of the same.

“Biden’s Border Fiasco” and the Damage Done. Back in August, the editorial board at Bloomberg Opinion called for bipartisan leadership in response to what it termed “Biden’s Border Fiasco”.

Citing a massive upturn in CBP encounters at the Southwest border, “distinctive catastrophes” such as an incident in San Antonio in June, when 53 migrants were found dead or dying in a crowded truck trailer, and “a host of related problems” like a surge in drug trafficking and a rush of unaccompanied alien children, the editors asserted: “These trends are very unlikely to improve without bold action”. That’s undeniable, but worth repeating.</p>

Keep in mind that Biden promised that none of this would happen. A month before he took office, in December 2020, the Washington Post reported that the president-elect had vowed to “keep his pledge to roll back the Trump administration's restrictive asylum policies”, but would do so “at a slower pace than he initially promised, to avoid winding up with '2 million people on our border’”.

Despite that vow, Biden quickly ditched Trump’s successful border policies without erecting any “speed bumps” — let alone guardrails — to prevent illegally entries. Instead, in a break from all his predecessors, Biden abandoned even the pretense of deterring illegal entrants, opting instead to funnel every foreign national who could touch U.S. soil illicitly into an already overwhelmed immigration court system.

Not surprisingly, as NBC News explained, the president’s Republican political opponents “have sought to wield the issue against Democrats ahead of November’s elections by pointing to record numbers of illegal border crossings”. Why wouldn’t they, given polling showing that the border is one of the Biden’s biggest weaknesses, and a wide plurality of voters who trust the GOP over Democrats to handle it?

“Stranglehold on Making any Progress”. Even though the president has made a mess of the Southwest border, “experts” cited by NBC News still blame his political opponents for his failure to pass the “comprehensive” legislation (read: “amnesty”) candidate Joe Biden had promised.

For example, the outlet quotes Cecilia Munoz, onetime director of the Domestic Policy Council during the Obama-Biden administration, who asserted: “The challenge is that Republicans have a stranglehold on making any progress”.

To its credit, NBC News pushed back, noting that while Biden did send “a comprehensive bill to overhaul the immigration system” to Capitol Hill on his first day in office, the president “has expended no political capital to move it forward in the nearly two years since, while Democrats controlled the House and the Senate”.

Still, that does not stop the outlet from quoting Angela Kelley, an erstwhile DHS senior counselor under Biden, who tries to get the president off the hook by asserting: “I think the administration is sometimes unsure how to articulate an answer to a complex problem when it is juxtaposed against a bumper sticker or a callous trick”.

Having spent more than 30 years in immigration and border enforcement, I beg to differ with much of what is contained in that brief statement.

First, border security is not a “complex problem”, as evidenced by Donald Trump’s successes in bringing down illegal entries in late FY 2019 after more than a few hiccups. It’s a complex problem now because the current administration’s border posture has been to multiply whatever Trump did by negative one and force Border Patrol agents to live with the consequences.

Second, Biden’s performance at the border (which has been both baleful and dismal) is the reason why he’s finding no appetite for his amnesty agenda, as the Washington Post’s resident “conservative” columnist Marc Thiessen recently pointed out. He explained:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says “the best thing that we can do for our economy is comprehensive immigration reform.” Here’s what she left out: It is President Biden who has made it impossible to pass any bipartisan immigration reform by unleashing the worst border crisis in U.S. history.

Thiessen’s analysis later meanders into libertarian nonsense, positing that it’s better to import foreign nationals willing to work to replace Americans who aren’t, heedless of the societal damage (single-parent homes, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.) that an indefinite period in which “more than 1 in 10 prime-age men are ‘labor-force dropouts — neither working nor looking for work’” would cause.

But his first point, excerpted above, is spot-on. Even if you think that “immigration reform” is necessary (which I don’t — the system works fine when the executive branch doesn’t monkey with it), you must concede that those 2.6 million aliens pouring over the U.S.-Mexico line are why it hasn’t happened.

Well, you would have to concede that if you weren’t Munoz or Kelley.

Returning to the latter, Kelley’s contention that the administration is being stymied in its noble efforts to remake U.S. immigration to its own tastes by “bumper sticker” retorts misses the point that there are a lot of Republicans — and more than a few Democrats — who don’t like the fruits of Biden’s border efforts.

As I recently noted, a Monmouth poll conducted in the past couple of weeks found that just 31 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of immigration, compared to 63 percent who disapprove. That means the displeased can’t all be “Ultra MAGA Republicans” (whatever that means) — there have to be a lot of Independents and Democrats in the mix, too.

To the degree that the president’s political opponents have boiled their border complaints down to a few pithy talking points: (1) that’s politics; and (2) Biden is floundering so badly at the border that anything more would just be gilding the lily. The president does not need to make it easy for those who would replace him and his fellow partisans, but he has.

As for “callous tricks”, I assume that Kelley is referring to efforts by Republican governors to transport illegal migrants released by DHS into border states to liberal northern enclaves, including Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, and most notably, Martha’s Vineyard.

With an average of one illegal migrant found dead in Maverick County, Texas, daily, drawn to this country by Biden’s border policies and more than a few incentives once they are here, one should ask who is really being “callous” — the Florida governor flying 50 migrants to a posh beach resort or the president encouraging thousands of migrants a day to enter at risk to life and limb? I know my answer.

Biden’s Vague Plans. All of which leads me to the president’s immigration plans after the November midterm congressional elections. NBC News reports: “The policy details of any immigration push, as well as its scale and scope, would depend on the makeup of Congress and the political climate”.

If that sounds vague, it is, but further down the outlet alludes to “a bipartisan group of lawmakers” who have “been quietly discussing immigration issues this year”. According to an unnamed member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, those talks include an expansion of visas for aliens to work “in agriculture, construction and certain other crucial industries”. That should cheer Thiessen.

That said, given the fact that NBC News reports that the president will headline his reelection campaign with the slogan “Promises Kept”, a massive amnesty along the lines Biden proposed on his first day in office will likely be a key component of any demands he makes of Congress.

Will he be successful? Likely not, but curiously NBC News contends that if Republicans take the House with a slim majority, “the potential future speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, would be under pressure from more moderate members to make progress, potentially opening the door to at least modest changes”.

With due respect to NBC’s political pundits, that analysis is backward. If the GOP takes the House with a majority of 20 seats or fewer, a would-be Speaker McCarthy would have to promise the immigration hawks in his conference that an immigration expansion is off the table to secure their votes.

No Democrat in a nearly evenly divided House will vote to hand McCarthy the speaker’s gavel, and thus he must rely on the whole GOP conference to secure the votes he needs. And, while a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, there’s no way McCarthy could maintain control if he brought legislation to the floor that didn’t have the support of his whole conference — hawks included.

Nothing related to immigration — aside from endless appearances by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and increased funding for enforcement and detention — will happen in a Republican House unless the border is secure. And not FY 2019 secure, FY 2011 secure, when apprehensions totaled fewer than 330,000.

But that’s all Biden’s fault. Despite claims to the contrary, external factors aren’t now driving 2.6 million aliens annually to enter illegally — the president’s policies are doing that, and administration contentions that the border is secure simply make his challenges worse, because they paint the president as “out of touch” at best and “lying” at worst.

Biden plainly hasn’t learned any lessons from the past two years at the Southwest border. Worse, he’s still peddling the same immigration “solutions” — amnesty, more foreign workers — that have already been proven unpopular. The good news is he likely won’t be able to get such schemes enacted into law.