Jul 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden border policies rebuild that wall

Illustration of a hand putting a piece in the border wall.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden is building his own kind of border wall.

Why it matters: By maintaining a Trump-era policy allowing border agents to kick asylum seekers back to Mexico — and now allowing some migrant families to face detention and fast-track deportations — a Democrat who promised a more humane immigration approach is taking some tough stances.

  • The hardline approach also underscores the administration's concerns about border numbers that refuse to fall, despite its best efforts.
  • As Axios reported Tuesday, 20,000 migrants were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley area in just a week during the past month.
  • Some 50,000 migrants also were released into the United States without a court date, an almost unprecedented action.

What they're saying: “It is frustrating to be at the end of July in this new administration and still have essentially a wall preventing asylum seekers from entering the country," Robyn Barnard of Human Rights First told Axios.

  • The administration has been "disappointing on some critical issues, including most importantly the refusal to end the Trump administration’s inhumane Title 42 policy," said Lee Gelernt, the ACLU's lead attorney in a case challenging Title 42.
  • "Most recently, we are concerned about the government’s statement that it intends to use the expedited removal process for families, and continuing statements that people should not come to the United States now.”

Border policy is complicated, disputed and deeply partisan, as those decisions attest. Migration, its causes and the failure to control it will likely fuel midterm election battles next year.

  • Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have already frustrated progressives and immigration advocates by telling migrants not to come to the U.S. before the administration can restore systems for proper processing of immigration and asylum requests.
  • "The administration is clearly concerned about border policies and is trying to get a hold of this issue in a way that threads the needle," said Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute.
  • She once oversaw the federal agency dealing with immigration.

What's happening: With the Delta coronavirus variant spreading, the administration is rethinking plans to end a Trump-era policy that has allowed border officials to immediately turn back migrants to Mexico, CNN and NBC News have reported. It was expected to be eliminated at the end of this month.

  • The administration has allowed humanitarian exceptions to the Title 42 policy for the most vulnerable immigrants, but there have still been backlogs and cancellations, according to the San Diego Tribune.
  • Late Monday, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would resume a controversial practice used in past administrations allowing officials to detain and more quickly deport migrant families.
  • Just last week, Biden reemphasized that migrants "should not come" to the U.S. during a CNN town hall, echoing Harris' statements during her visit to Guatemala earlier this year.
  • Meanwhile, the average number of people held in ICE detention centers each day has risen to nearly 28,000 — largely comprising migrants and asylum seekers stopped by border officials, according to agency data.
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