Jun 24, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden's breakthrough on immigration

.S. President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi walk together to the Oval Office of the White House

President Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Supreme Court's decision Friday allowing the Biden administration to target certain undocumented migrants for deportation came as new data indicate the president's latest border plan is slowing illegal crossings.

Why it matters: Immigration has been one of President Biden's biggest logistical and political challenges. Friday's court ruling and the new data are signs of a breakthrough for Biden — even as Republicans in Congress plot to impeach him over his border policies.

Driving the news: After months of court battles, the Supreme Court cleared the way for ICE agents to prioritize undocumented migrants deemed to pose a threat to public safety.

  • Having ICE narrow its focus to migrants such as those with serious criminal records was an early move by the Biden administration that later was blocked by lower courts.

Zoom in: The court's decision came as new government data signal that Biden's new border policies are continuing to keep illegal crossings at the southwest border to manageable levels for U.S. authorities.

  • Early this week, the Border Patrol was averaging 3,300 migrant arrests a day.
  • That's down from the 10,000-plus migrants who were crossing into the U.S. illegally each day just before a pandemic-era policy ended about six weeks ago and was replaced by Biden's new policies.
  • The pandemic-era policy, known as Title 42, was used to rapidly expel hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers.

Between the lines: An expected surge of migrants after Title 42 ended hasn't materialized, as Biden's limits on asylum have kicked in. Illegal border crossings actually dipped last month despite the surge in early May, according to new Department of Homeland Security data.

  • Biden's new asylum restrictions automatically reject most migrants who illegally cross into the U.S. without first seeking protection in a country they traveled through to get to the southwest border.
  • The Biden rule has resulted in a significant uptick in migrants being rejected in the initial screening step for seeking asylum, according to government data.
  • In late April, migrants at this stage of the asylum process were denied roughly 18% of the time. That jumped to 42% in the first half of June.
  • In the first month post-Title 42, more than 8,000 migrants were impacted by the asylum rule — 88% of whom ultimately were found ineligible for asylum, according to DHS data provided to Axios.

What they're saying: Immigration advocates and some Democratic lawmakers have criticized Biden's new asylum rule, saying it's too harsh.

  • But the White House casts Biden's effort as a significant step in controlling immigration.
  • “President Biden has a plan that is delivering real results, with unlawful border crossings down 70% since Title 42 lifted," White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan tells Axios.
  • "We could be doing a whole lot more if Republicans in Congress would stop blocking the reforms and funds needed to fix our long-broken immigration system,” Hasan added.

The other side: Polls indicate voters remain critical of Biden's approach to the border issue — and House Republicans have amped up their efforts to penalize the administration over its actions there.

  • Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the government is doing a bad job at the U.S.-Mexico border — a further slide from a dismal 68% in April 2021, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
  • Far-right Republicans in the House are using the issue to try to force a vote to impeach Biden.
  • They also are targeting Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for impeachment.

What to watch: Friday's ruling could signal good news for other Biden border policies that are being challenged in court by Republican-led states. Those policies include the administration's use of a tool called "parole."

  • Under parole programs, tens of thousands of migrants from certain countries have been allowed to legally enter and stay in the U.S.
  • The parole allows them to stay for only two years — unless they are granted a permanent status such as asylum.
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