Terry H. Schwadron

Sept. 8, 2021

Amid the needs for simultaneous attention in a busy month on figuring out next steps for the Afghanistan withdrawal, to de-coding an ever-changing response to coronavirus, dealing with the economy, jobs and natural disasters, rebutting state abortion and voting rights restrictions and getting big spending bills through Congress, the Biden administration is still tagged with unraveling a significant immigration mess.

Despite all the words earlier this year, the rising immigration numbers are not going away, court decisionsare boxing Team Biden into continuing Donald Trump’s Remain-in-Mexico policies, and a pending influx of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees is about to blow up immigration issues anew.

Normal immigration service functions, from passport renewals for U.S. citizens to handling legal immigration issues are horribly backed up. It took all summer for a passport renewal, and our new daughter-in-law, a Spanish national, has been told it may be up to 40 months for an interview to process her claims.

The chances of getting a thoughtful, comprehensive immigration package of bills through Congress is nil, and the Department of Homeland Security remains substantially behind both in people to process immigration issues of all sorts to a lack of cohesion on exactly what is next. Public and international communications about American immigration policy is skewed, at best, and appointment of Vice President Kamala Harris to coordinate foreign policies on immigration have proved generally useless, if in the short-term.

In short, nine months into the administration, immigration remains a soft underbelly for Joe Biden’s vulnerable attempts at remaking American attitudes. At what point should we expect Homeland Security to be up to the tasks at hand?

Too Little, Too Late

Despite promises to address Trump-era policies with more humanity at the border, Biden’s group has seemed consistently late and hamstrung.

Customs and Border Patrol statistics continue to show healthy percentage year-to-year increases over contacts with migrants and arrests, deportations, and unresolved asylum requests cases at the Southern border way up. As a result, Republican governors, sensing the political opportunity, have been allowing their own state troopers to make arrests for violations like trespassing on private property, and using those arrests as rationale to turn migrants over to Customs for deportation.

On procedural grounds, the Supreme Court smacked the Biden upset of Remain-in-Mexico policies and insisted on its reinstatement — over Mexico’s objections about, in effect, being told what to do by an American court. That, in turn, has overturned whatever powers of an executive order to keep applicants for asylum in this country, and guarantees that anyone squatting in inadequate facilities across the border will be targets for continuing violence and hunger.

Plus, all immigration attention now will be on the resettlement of perhaps half of the 120,000 Afghans airlifted from that country to U.S. and allied air bases for resettlement. Those plans are raising the ire of the Trump crowd in the United States, which, on one hand, wants to criticize Biden for not taking out more, and wants to criticize him for plans to resettle them here. Some states and communities have said they will welcome these refugees.

In any event, the special visa program that was supposed to help accelerate the legal means by which Afghans who helped the U.S. military escape has come under substantial criticism on all sides for proving unwieldy and unresponsive under the emergency requirements of a quickened Afghan withdrawal.

We still have regular reports of problems in border holding facilities, we have more reports from the border patrol agencies of drug smugglers taking advantage of the confusion, of harm done by illegal coyote guides to the vulnerable.

The New York Times offered a more upbeat assessment of the Remain-in-Mexico upset. “Among some Biden officials, the Supreme Court’s order was quietly greeted with something other than dismay, current and former officials said: It brought some measure of relief,” The Times said, suggesting that “some Biden officials were already talking about reviving Trump’s policy in a limited way to deter migration.”

The trick, of course, is doing so in some ways that are more humanitarian than simply slamming the door in the face of rising border crossings, perhaps requiring U.S. investment in facilities across the border. As usual, there is no plan, just words, and even those as off-the-record whispers at this point.

Hearing is Selective

It is important to note here that despite whatever Biden says publicly, people in Central America who are desperate about feeding their families or avoiding violence at home, are choosing to hear that Biden was opening the doors to the United States — something that Biden’s Republican opponents amplify.

The frustration with four years of Trump policies slamming the door on both illegal and legal immigration has left us with moral and practical problems that elude any kind of easy resolution. Politically, we cannot even deal with the easiest cases of DACA kids who were raised here, have grown to adulthood here, serving in the military and in the professions and paying taxes for a generation while remaining in legal limbo.

In fact, arrests and deportations are up, any number of statistic show. But so too is the flood of those knocking on the gates.

The frustration with four years of Trump policies slamming the door on both illegal and legal immigration has left us with moral and practical problems that elude any kind of easy resolution. Politically, we cannot even deal with the easiest cases of DACA kids who were raised here, have grown to adulthood here, serving in the military and in the professions and paying taxes for a generation while remaining in legal limbo.

Biden has asked Mexico and Central America to step up their own border enforcement. “But the efforts have not meaningfully curbed the flows north, and they have led to violent attacks on migrants by law enforcement in those countries,” The Times notes. And while the administration has tried to change the welcoming tone it set early on, migrants and smugglers say the encouraging signals sent at the outset of Biden’s term are all anyone remembers.

The collective impact of all of this is seen in continually rising numbers, continuing rising delays in resolutions, in filling jobs that American citizens don’t seem to want to take, in the international black eye for our moral standing.

The next set of elections will target immigration like a bull’s eye, assuredly painting the Biden administration and Democrats at best as ineffective at bringing about a new, defensive view towards immigration, and, at worst, as running a country with “open borders,” however inaccurate that depiction.

Somewhere in the busy schedule, there must be a Biden doctrine for understandable immigration.

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