Record US border crossings kindle GOP rebuke of Biden policies

Ellen M. Gilmer and Andrew Rosati, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

Brazilians, Cubans, Ecuadorans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans were the main contributors to influx of people as the virus ravaged economies across the region and governments struggled to inoculate populations. Roughtly 378,000 people, or nearly 22% of all migrants, came from countries other than Mexico and the Northern Triangle in fiscal 2021.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said his department is strategically employing enforcement tools and working to rebuild U.S. asylum and refugee programs that the Trump administration “dismantled.” The secretary, in a recent congressional hearing, pointed to a dip in migrant encounters in August as evidence that enforcement measures in the long-term plan are starting to deter attempted crossings.

The administration’s explanations have fallen flat on both sides of the aisle. Republicans dismiss any short-term improvements as insignificant and say the annual numbers paint a picture of a government that’s lost control of its borders.

“It is time to admit that there is a crisis at the southern border and that the men and women of the United States Border Patrol are overwhelmed,” Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee told Biden in an Oct. 4 letter.

They’re calling on the Biden administration to restart construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall; keep pandemic-related migrant restrictions in place; and reinstate the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy requiring asylum-seekers to stay there while their claims are heard.

Democrats and liberal allies of the Biden administration, meanwhile, have increasingly expressed frustration that the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies have kept several Trump-era policies in place.


They’re especially concerned about the continued use of Title 42, a public health order the Trump administration initially employed to allow border officials to turn away migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mass repatriation flights to Haiti under Title 42 prompted a bigger swell of criticism from party leaders and advocacy groups.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in September called on Biden to end the policy, arguing that it interferes with asylum-seekers’ rights to due process.

Yet federal courts have tied the administration’s hands on many fronts as lawsuits from states, immigrants, and advocacy groups create legal whiplash. A district court, for example, ordered the government to stop expelling migrant families under Title 42, but an appeals court quickly stepped in and blocked that order.

Federal judges also appear to control the fate of the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which Biden halted immediately after taking office. A court concluded that decision was unlawful and ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the program. The Department of Homeland Security is working to do that, pending Mexico’s approval. It’s simultaneously crafting a new agency order to cancel the program — a move that’s expected to trigger another round of litigation.

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