Illegal border crossings remain near record highs despite the searing summer heat, yet the crisis has barely broken through the media’s focus on the recently passed climate and health-care package and other purported “wins” for President Biden. That lack of attention is bad — both for the country and for Biden.
What’s going on along the border with Mexico is scandalous. Thousands of migrants illegally cross it every day, often with no interaction with the overworked Border Patrol. That agency nonetheless reports massive numbers of apprehensions each month. Nearly 163,000 people were encountered at the border in July, a huge number for a brutally hot summer month.
To put this into perspective, consider that the Border Patrol reports it has encountered more than 1.8 million illegally crossing migrants so far this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. That’s more than all of the last fiscal year and more than double that of any single year during President Donald Trump’s term. Indeed, border encounters for this fiscal year are on track to exceed the total for Trump’s full four-year term.
Government data show that roughly 903,000 of these migrants were immediately deported under Title 42, based on an executive order issued by the Trump administration during the pandemic that allows border agents to immediately deport apprehended migrants who pose a risk to public health. (The Biden administration attempted to lift the order but has been blocked in court.)
The rest have been processed under Title 8, which allows migrants to seek asylum in the United States. The Bipartisan Policy Center reports that more than 80 percent of Title 8 detainees are allowed to remain in the country while waiting for their asylum cases to be decided, most of them living freely in our cities and neighborhoods.
This means hundreds of thousands of people have been allowed to reside in the United States even though they arrived here illegally. Most will have to appear for court hearings to assess their right to remain, but our immigration court system is hopelessly overloaded. It could be years before these cases are heard. Many migrants — 10 to 20 percent — will skip their hearing, secure in the knowledge that the system will have likely lost track of them.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the “rule of law” lately. Biden’s look-the-other-way immigration policy is in effect an ingenious way to avoid that rule. That mocks the principle he piously says he supports.
This is bad for the country for a host of reasons. It’s bad because it does a nation no good to disrespect its own borders. It’s bad because as the country recovers from the pandemic, allowing massive numbers of people to join the economy means legal residents will have to compete with them for jobs. And it’s bad because it divides our country by flagrantly ignoring the sentiments of the half or so of voters who want illegal immigration to be controlled. So much for “healing the nation.”
It's also bad for Biden and the Democrats politically. Polls regularly show that the public overwhelmingly disapproves of Biden’s immigration policy. Disapproval is especially high among Hispanics, who disproportionally live along the border and in the communities where the migrants settle. Conservative media regularly cover the ongoing crisis, ensuring that it is kept in the forefront for Republican voters. This is one issue where conservatives and independents agree, meaning it will almost certainly be a major issue in the fall campaign.
That’s why border-state Democrats such as Sen. Mark Kelly (Ariz.) want this addressed before Election Day. The Biden administration recently threw Kelly a bone by providing funding to complete gaps in Trump’s border wall in Kelly’s state. Yet Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, highlighted how quickly the problem could have been solved had the administration really wanted to address it by sealing parts of the gaps himself with cargo containers. Meanwhile, much of the rest of the border continues to be porous with no plans in sight to bring it under control.
Maybe Biden thinks he can force Republicans into a deal on comprehensive immigration reform by allowing so many undocumented people into the country. Perhaps, but it’s likelier Republicans will push back even more to control the border. That’s a dead certainty if up to four new Hispanic Republicans join Rep. Tony Gonzales in representing border districts. Imagine how Democrats will respond if Hispanics representing the border call for stricter immigration policies.
The huge numbers of migrants crossing the border make it clear: Biden’s immigration policy has failed. Expect to see the political fallout of this in November.