Biden New Immigration Policy Angers Both Left And Right Alike

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Immigration Divide: Biden embraces a cautious middle ground in his attempt to demonstrate that he takes the border crisis seriously in light of his 2024 reelection bid announcement and the Republican-controlled House’s determination to launch probes into his immigration measures.

Protesters at a march in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 7 demand an end to the immigration policy known as Title 42. [Paul Ratje/Reuters]

Anti-Immigration Attacks Landing Hard & Fast

Many saw President Biden’s plan to provide “parole” to some asylum seekers as a dereliction of duty and an attack on American values.

It was typical polarization in Washington, but with a twist. This time, the president’s conservative opponents were not the ones to attack him.

President Biden announced last week that up to 30,000 asylum seekers per month from four countries (Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti) would be granted “parole” to live and work in the United States for two years if they did not first cross the border with Mexico.

On the other hand, these detractors were progressives, the type of people who would typically agree with the White House on policy issues but now found themselves on the other side.

This week, President Biden made his first trip to El Paso, Texas, the core of the crisis. Despite this, he has vowed to continue following the progressive agenda on which he ran.

So far, that compromise has worked out so well, as it were, dissatisfying neither fans nor detractors.

The new plan’s purpose is to apply the number of illegal border crossings by encouraging potential asylum seekers to do so before leaving their home countries. To achieve these requirements, they will need access to a new smartphone app, to agree to a background check, and to find a sponsor in the United States.

Immigrant rights activists consider the procedure and monthly restriction unreasonable and inhumane, but many migrants and advocates suppose requesting asylum at the border is a fundamental human right.

This administration is “illegally and immorally gutting access to humanitarian protections for the majority of people who have already fled their country seeking freedom and safety,” according to Sunil Varghese, policy director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, echoing the claims of many other groups advocating for looser immigration restrictions.

Officials in the current administration have vehemently denied these claims. According to an official, “the Biden administration is building safe and orderly procedures for people who want to claim asylum in the United States.”

The White House was well aware that anti-immigrant Republicans would strike out regardless of what they did (or did not do) to cope with the influx of migrants at the border. It was the circumstance.

Stephen Miller, the architect of the Trump administration’s initial visa restrictions targeting primarily Muslim countries, branded Biden’s actions a “tyrannical usurpation of our democracy.” Yet, despite its extreme nature, the claim has been embraced by sure Republicans and conservatives.

Partisan investigations of the Obama administration’s alleged inability to enforce current immigration rules by the newly strengthened House GOP will dominate the lower chamber for the next two years. This includes Biden and his homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas.

After a period in which Biden appeared to gain a significant amount of goodwill inside his party by passing legislation on issues such as gun control and climate change that virtually all sections of the party supported, Democrats’ reaction has been arguably more startling.

Migrants from Venezuela wait in line to be processed by US Border Patrol agents in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 4. [Paul Ratje/Reuters]

Consensus mirage

Getting everyone on the same page about immigration is proving far more complex.

Hours after the president’s announcement, four Democratic senators who are usually White House allies—Alex Padilla of California, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico—slammed the new plan for “excluding thousands of migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability or economic means to qualify for the new parole process.”

Consider the reaction to Biden’s plan to understand how political divide can result in such diverse worldviews.

When the anti-immigrant right sees asylum seekers as no different from migrants who cross the southern border without legitimate asylum claims, they treat all asylum seekers with suspicion. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which pushes for stronger curbs on legal and illegal immigration, branded the new parole plan “one of the most egregious and unlawful abuses of humanitarian parole authority in our nation’s history.”

The pro-immigrant left is anxious that Biden’s plan will impose the same kinds of restrictions that he raged against when running against Trump. “It is U.S. law that people can apply for asylum, regardless of their nation or mode of entry,” Women’s Refugee Commission head of external communications Joanna Kuebler said. Her message encouraged the Biden administration to “uphold the right to seek asylum” and not “expand anti-asylum tactics” like the Trump administration.

An ongoing source of dissatisfaction for immigration rights activists is that the new parole policy continues to rely on Title 42, a public health rule adopted during World War II that allows for the swift expulsion of migrants detected entering the United States without proper authorization. Although the Biden administration has opposed Title 42, it is still in use, particularly for the new parole plan, which transfers 30,000 migrants to Mexico monthly.

However, supporters believe that the Biden administration is doing more to deport people by using Title 42 than simply continuing to use it.

An administration official stated Title 42 was being enforced as a function of court rulings. Although they are appealing such verdicts, the administration must respect the current court directive until the dispute is resolved. The administration intends to use Title 8, an existing immigration law, to deport illegal migrants in the future.

Advocates have also questioned a new proposed rule from the Department of Homeland Security that would bar migrants from seeking asylum in the United States if they arrived at the US-Mexico border without first seeking asylum in a country they passed through on the way.

To immigration advocates, seeking asylum at the border is a sacred right protected by law; hence, the proposed new DHS rule is incredibly annoying because it will penalize the process by which asylum is sought.

According to a Trump-era administration official, the rule is “not an asylum prohibition,” and it is being misunderstood. It is a process that makes asylum-seeking safe, coordinated, and humane. Furthermore, he noted that advocates and others would have numerous opportunities to submit feedback on the DHS proposal during the regulatory process.

aRep. Lou Correa (D-CA) on the east front steps of Capitol Hill on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. [Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times/Getty Images]

A yearning for sweeping reforms

True, not everyone despises the new Biden plan. According to Jennie Murray, president of the National Immigration Forum, “expanding the use of humanitarian parole will contribute to a more orderly process at the border, as will greater legal options for people seeking humanitarian asylum.”

Biden, who introduced the new endeavor, blamed Congress for the protracted delay in immigration reform. Regardless of ideological affiliation, most Americans believe that the existing system needs to be fixed-faulty at present. Still, without the help of Capitol Hill, the White House cannot do much, if anything, to change it.

In the end, widespread discontent with the parole plan may reflect a practically unanimous desire for more fundamental changes held by progressives and conservatives alike. Those in support of the new strategy acknowledge that it will only bring short relief. They claim, however, that such assistance is necessary because thousands of migrants attempt to enter the United States every day.

“I understand some people at the border and their communities carry much of the weight of this refugee situation,” Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) told the Hill. Because they are actively seeking solutions, they may be more receptive to the proposed alternatives.

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