President Biden’s border policy appears on the surface to have attained its original goals: be the antithesis of President Trump’s, treat migrants more humanely, and make the border porous and permeable. DHS Secretary Mayorkas repeatedly told the Congress and the American people that border was secure when live TV coverage dramatized the falsity of his statements as hundreds illegally crossed the border in broad daylight. That he has avoided impeachment or forced resignation testifies to the political success of his management.
A series of executive changes to immigration procedures have allowed migrants from the primary sending nations who wish to claim asylum to initiate claims in their home nations to enter the US and bypass the drama at the border. This reduced the negative imagery of chaos at the border without reducing the overall number of “asylum seekers.” In fact, August border crossings shot up to at least 91,000 surpassing the previous record for one month set in 2019; whether this is a one-off surge remains to be seen.
There is, however, one boil growing on the backside of President Biden’s policies. Earlier this year, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, aided by other officials (and applauded even by Democrats such as Rep. Henry Cuellar) in the Southwest, launched Operation Lone Star and started the sharing the “wealth” of uncontrolled illegal migration with cities and states that had proudly proclaimed their “sanctuary” status and bloviated on the need to be welcoming and humane.
Abbott’s tactic was denounced as dastardly and worse, but after a few months, the “virtuous” (mostly Democrat governed) jurisdictions were reeling under the burden that the Southwest had endured for years. Mayor Brandon Johnson of the Windy City pleaded for more help and “immigration policy changes.” In Boston, Governor Maura Healy declared a state of emergency and mobilized the National Guard. In in the City That Never Sleeps, Mayor Eric Adams sharply criticized the Administration, pleaded for federal largesse and a crackdown on the border while asserting that the migrant wave will “…destroy New York City.” We are now witness to the unanticipated development of Democrat politicians sounding like their Republican peers. Perhaps the Democrats are beginning to understand David Frum’s August 2019 prediction that “If Liberals Won’t Enforce Borders, Fascists Will.” Arguably, this issue could return Donald Trump to the White House.
There are few points of agreement on the migrant issue where specious claims to asylum open the door to the US. (Happily, there still seems to be support for “refugee” admissions as that term is defined in both US and in international law.) Both parties will concede if not proclaim that the immigration system is broken and needs immediate repair, but they agree on little else. There is, however, one defined small, but crucial area, where perhaps both Republicans and Democrats could coalesce for immediate action.
One of the force multipliers of dysfunction in our system is the time now required to adjudicate asylum claims, normally a few years. This leaves asylum seekers in limbo while allowing them to burrow into the US, have children here who automatically become American citizens and become harder to deport when their claims are deemed to lack merit.
As a matter of principle, both Democrats and Republicans should welcome accelerating this process so that judgments are made within a few months. No new legislation would be required beyond funding to hire the necessary personnel. This would pay for itself in quick order by alleviating the burdens posed by migrants on public services. If the Biden Administration would wake up and smell the roses, it would advance such a proposal in the context of the current budget debate. But don’t hold your breath.