National Review, December 3, 2021
The White House has announced an agreement with Mexico to resume the “Remain in Mexico” program for certain illegal-alien “asylum-seekers” starting Monday, December 6. This, combined with other indications of stepped-up immigration enforcement, has caused dissatisfaction among the administration’s anti-borders confederates about Biden presiding over the second Trump term when it comes to immigration.
At first blush, this grumbling seems absurd. FY 2021 had the highest number of illegal-alien arrests at the southern border in history, a consequence of a historic surge across our borders. The number of deportations has plummeted. (We have a report coming out next week, based on FOIA’d information, showing an alarming drop even in the number of illegal-alien criminals being deported, at a time when crime is spiking.) Obama’s Central American Minors program has been restarted, to fly certain illegal aliens directly to the U.S. The House of Representatives has passed an amnesty for some 7 million illegal aliens, plus measures to increase legal immigration (though these provisions may yet be stripped out of the budget-reconciliation bill in the Senate). Regulations are in the works to facilitate the immigration of people likely to go on welfare and to dramatically expand asylum.
And those are only the high points of the Biden administration’s unprecedented anti-borders campaign.
On the other hand, the hard-left activists aren’t totally wrong. In addition to finally restarting Remain in Mexico (albeit in dramatically watered-down form) months after being ordered to do so by a federal judge, the Biden administration has continued limited use of Title 42 expulsions (premised on a public-health emergency), which send people back to Mexico without hearings. What’s more, DHS has been permitted to deport by air some Central American and Haitian families, as my colleague Todd Bensman has reported. Even detentions of illegal aliens are up from the very low levels during the worst of the pandemic.
These are all half measures. Title 42 expulsions are applied only to single men; most Central American families are still being released into the U.S., not flown home; and even Remain in Mexico will exempt many “asylum-seekers”, including all those from the eastern hemisphere (like these guys), and people claiming to be LGBT etc., which is certain to prompt an explosion of Latin Max Klingers starting next week.
But even a little enforcement can make a difference after the open-borders free-for-all since January 20. While October border arrests, at about 5,100 illegal-alien apprehensions per day, were still the highest numbers for that month in a generation, they were down 21 percent from the historic peak in July.
This suggests that the anti-borders pragmatists in the White House have gained the upper hand, after the first six or seven months of Biden’s term, when the anti-borders fanatics were in charge. The dissension within the administration over immigration policy is not about the objective, which is de facto unlimited immigration, but about tactics and optics. Even before Biden’s overall approval ratings tanked he was already underwater on immigration with the public — and it’s only gotten worse since. While the Democrats are virtually guaranteed to lose their majority in the House of Representatives next year, they hope to retain the Senate — but that will be impossible if their man in the White House continues to preside over an epic immigration disaster.
The administration’s gestures toward border enforcement are unlikely to yield much political benefit. While anything is better than nothing, the enforcement moves’ grudging and half-hearted nature mean they will have only limited effect, doing nothing to change the broad (and accurate) public perception of the administration as hostile to America’s borders and sovereignty. At the same time, outrage among Biden’s hard-left cadres will only grow with each prospective illegal alien who is unable to get in.
Break out the popcorn.