Biden Moves Forward With Open-Doors Immigration Policy. Why?
A Commentary by Michael Barone
"BIDEN," say the young demonstrators' T-shirts, imitating his campaign logo, "PLEASE LET US IN!" The picture ran in The New York Times, but one wonders whether whoever paid for the tees got his money's worth, for President Joe Biden's administration seems determined to let in as many immigrants as want to come.
The numbers are daunting. About 80,000 people tried to cross the southern border this January -- about double the number in January 2020. That number could easily balloon this spring, traditionally the peak migration season, with fewer COVID-19 restrictions in place.
And with less cooperation from Mexico. The 2019 illegal surge was quashed by the Migration Protection Protocols, to which then-President Donald Trump got Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to agree. AMLO (as he is universally called) kept Central American would-be migrants inside Mexico, which reduced attempted border crossings and stifled coyotes' smuggling business model.
Biden could have preserved that arrangement up through AMLO's term, which expires in September 2024. Instead, he rescinded the agreement by executive order and scrapped the program encouraging Central American asylum seekers to apply from their home countries.
One predictable result: a sudden spike of what Democrats during the Trump presidency referred to as "children in cages." Actually, as David Harsanyi explains in National Review, migrant children are being kept in detention facilities built by former President Obama's administration for children whose parents or guardians were detained after entering the country illegally and making (usually baseless) claims for asylum. Liberals bellowed protests when they held 2,000 minors in the Trump years. Now, under Biden, they hold over 3,200.
In time, perhaps quickly, those held will be released and sent to purported relatives in the United States -- often permanently, since many don't show up to asylum hearings. Many are infected with the coronavirus.
The Federalist's John Daniel Davidson reports that more than 100 of those released tested positive for COVID-19, and Greyhound is now demanding negative test results before migrants board its buses.
Locals aren't happy with the inrush of illegals. The heavily Hispanic Rio Grande Valley produced one of the biggest increases in percentages of Trump voters last fall, and Laredo, Texas, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar laments that "migrants are illegally crossing, potentially exposing border communities to the coronavirus and putting us at risk."
Biden may have called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's end to mandatory masking "Neanderthal," but the Biden administration is apparently happy to send infectious illegal immigrants all around the country.
That's reminiscent of how the Democrats most insistent on masks and lockdowns considered mass demonstrations by "mostly peaceful" (often-violent) Black Lives Matter supporters last year to be just fine. The implication is that law-abiding citizens are less deserving of indulgence than angry demonstrators or illegal immigrants.
While Donald Trump was questioned and mocked about his immigration policies, so far, the Biden administration has gotten away with just waving aside questions.
Joe Biden, who, unlike his predecessors by this time of their presidencies, hasn't held a press conference yet, simply ignored a shouted question about the "crisis" on the southern border at an event in a northeast Washington hardware store.
Asked about the tripling of migrant children detained at the border, White House press secretary Jen Psaki referred questions to the Department of Homeland Security, which wasn't answering questions either. "Ask them again," she said. "It's not our program."
As for DHS, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reportedly said the surge of illegals is "overwhelming" and called for volunteers from the department to help at the border. But he doesn't want to staunch the flow permanently. "We are not saying, 'Don't come,'" he said last week. "We are saying, 'Don't come now,' because we will be able to deliver a safe and orderly process to them as quickly as possible."
This reluctance to defend and unwillingness to explain a policy that is being put in place by facts on the ground suggests a suspicion that it's widely unpopular.
Candidate Biden made it clear he wanted a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million already in the country illegally, and administration actions now invite many more to come in illegally.
This at a time when it's not clear that the nation needs a new influx of relatively low-skill immigrants. The housing crisis of 2007-08 reduced net migration from Mexico to zero for several years, and it has never rebounded to 1982-2007 levels. The Trump policies, after some stumbles and adverse court decisions, curtailed Central American inflow.
The result is that total immigration flow has tilted toward Asia and has produced a higher percentage of high-skill immigrants -- just what those on both sides of immigration arguments have said they want. Now Biden is pursuing a policy that will tend to hold down low-skill wages at a time when many have been involuntarily unemployed for months. Why?
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.
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