From the Left



Biden's Secret Border Agenda: Migrants Fill Our Baby Gap

: Ted Rall on

I didn't question the incoming Biden administration when they rolled back the Trump era's stricter border control policies in 2021. There's nothing unusual about reversing a previous president's approach, especially when he belongs to the other party and the policy in question is roundly criticized.

You didn't have to be a proponent of open borders to feel discomfort about former President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance stance toward both economic migrants and political asylum applicants, which led to kids in cages, his draconian family separation policy, which caused nearly 1,000 children to get disappeared into the system and never reunite with their parents, or his Remain in Mexico scheme, which subjected immigration applicants to gang and cartel violence. By the time he left office, Trump's handling of undocumented people who attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border was viewed as inhumane and highly unpopular.

As we see so often in American politics, we have gone from one extreme to the other. President Joe Biden has swung past the status quo ante toward immigration policies more liberal than anyone alive today can remember. Slightly fewer than two million people illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border during Trump's four years in office; there have been well over six million under Biden, who still has nine months left to serve. Biden has deported more than half of these.

Where the two administrations' policies really differ is their handling of applicants who present themselves to border patrol agents and follow the federal government's legal application process for asylum. Fewer than 200,000 asylum seekers were paroled (i.e., admitted into the U.S. pending the resolution of their claim) under Trump. Biden has paroled nearly 500,000, and he still has nine months to go, with big spikes over the past two years. Between those people and others allowed into the U.S. under Biden's special refugee programs for people fleeing conflict zones like Ukraine, Afghanistan and Venezuela, more than 1,000,000 are now in the country.

Now it's Biden's turn to feel the heat of popular discontent in an election year. More than two-thirds of voters disapprove of the president on immigration (68%) and border security (69%), according to an AP-NORC poll conducted on March 29. After the economy, health care, crime and guns, immigration is tied for fifth with abortion among the issues voters care about most right now.

Like other leftists, I long assumed Biden's "open-border" approach was driven by a pair of common, well-intentioned -- albeit shortsighted -- liberal impulses: opposing all things Trump just because and, in the spirit of Emma Lazarus, opening America's doors to the poor and oppressed masses desperate for the chance to make new lives here, in homage to our history as a Nation of Immigrants.


Now I think something else is going on.

Biden and the Democrats read polls; they know their border policies aren't playing well with the swing voters they need to win this fall. Trump's fearmongering seems to be landing punches. So why is the administration staying the course? Why are they just standing by and watching as cities like New York and Chicago reel under the financial stress of hundreds of thousands of new arrivals they can't handle?

As James Carville famously observed in 1992, it's the economy, stupid. It's always the economy, especially in an election year. And you can't hit the ideal GDP growth rate of 2% or 3% a year if your population -- your consumer base and your labor pool -- shrinks.

But Team Biden is looking far beyond November.


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