Updated Oct 5, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden's Trumpish border moves

Photo illustration of a collage with President Biden, concertina wire, the southern border wall and a group of migrants.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Agencia Press South, John Moore, Kevin Dietsch, Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

After an outcry from blue state governors and big city mayors, President Biden's border policy in 2023 is looking more like the Trump era.

Why it matters: Biden's going forward with a border wall in South Texas, striking deals with Mexico, expediting family deportation, restricting asylum and paying Panama to remove people as historic migration continues.

  • Political pressure has been building for Biden to fix the border problem fast, with Democrats fearful the issue could hurt them in next year's election.
  • Administration officials are quick to point to the differences between Biden's border policies and his predecessor's, including expansive legal parole programs. But the similarities are hard to miss.

Driving the news: Top Cabinet members descended on Mexico on Thursday to discuss solutions to illegal migration and fentanyl smuggling as tensions between the two countries have escalated.

  • Mexico has reportedly agreed to deport people along its northern border on behalf of the U.S.
  • Trump was infamously aggressive with Mexico to force them to do more to deter migration, while Biden has taken a more diplomatic approach.

Zoom in: After swearing he wouldn't build more border wall, Biden is now waiving dozens of federal laws to allow exactly that in South Texas.

  • The project will use 2019 funds, however, and Biden argues the construction is required to go forward by law.
  • Asylum-seekers who cross the border illegally and do not first seek refuge in a country they traveled through are being rejected for asylum, reminiscent of Trump's so-called transit ban.
  • Homeland Security is expanding a program to deport families faster.
  • The State Department is readying to use foreign aid to assist another country's deportation efforts for the first time in history — similar to a plan first pursued by Trump.
  • Venezuela will also begin to cooperate with U.S. deportation efforts for the first time in years, senior administration officials said Thursday.

Zoom out: State and local Democrats have been pointing fingers and raising the alarm about strained city resources and overrun shelters because of the migrant influx — and ongoing migrant busing from Texas.

  • New York City Mayor Eric Adams is setting out on a tour of Central and South America to urge migrants not to come to his city.
  • Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson also plans to visit the border soon. He met with DHS officials on Thursday to talk about ways to improve the situation on the ground.

What they're saying: A DHS spokesperson said in a statement that they are "legally required to utilize these funds" to construct border barriers and had hoped Congress would reappropriate the money instead.

  • The spokesperson pointed to a June announcement, saying, "This is not a new barrier announcement."
  • "The construction project reported today was appropriated during the prior administration in 2019 and the law requires the government to use these funds for this purpose, which we announced earlier this year," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Thursday.
  • "We have repeatedly asked Congress to rescind this money but it has not done so and we are compelled to follow the law."

Still, the notice signed by Mayorkas on Wednesday night stated: "There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers ... in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States."

Go deeper: Trump taunts Biden on border wall reversal amid immigration surge

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a statement from Mayorkas and more details about the Biden administration's asylum policy.

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