Jun 10, 2024 - News

How border restrictions relate to the DNC

Photo of a row of tents set up on a city street

Some officials worry a summer surge of migrant buses could lead to homeless migrant encampments, like these from last year, reemerging before the Democratic National Convention. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

While many progressives decry President Biden's new tougher policy on migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, others are hopeful it could head off a summer surge.

Why it matters: Summer traditionally brings an uptick in border crossings and some officials are worried Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will send many of those new arrivals to Chicago as a political move before the Democratic National Convention.

State of play: The policy, which blocks most migrants who illegally cross the border from applying for asylum and returns them quickly to Mexico or their home country, went into effect last week.

  • Organizations, including the ACLU and the National Immigrant Justice Center, have announced they will sue over it.

Between the lines: For months, Biden has tried unsuccessfully to pass similar measures through Congress, but some still question the timing of this move, noting its proximity to the first presidential debate on June 27 and the DNC starting Aug. 19.

Driving the news: Axios Chicago asked federal officials on a press call if they expected the move to slow migrant arrivals to Chicago ahead of the DNC, and if it was partially intended to have that effect.

What they're saying: "We do expect these measures to have an effect on encounter levels," deputy secretary of homeland security Kristie Canegallo responded.

  • "We do anticipate that migrants and smugglers will take stock of these changes at the southern border and that they will adjust their behaviors accordingly."

Yes but: Tom Perez, senior adviser to the president, pushed back on the idea that the order was meant to mitigate migrant arrivals here before the DNC.

  • "The unfortunate reality is that there are people who are trying to weaponize this issue. Gov. Abbott is undeniably one of them," Perez tells Axios.
  • "When you send a youngster on Jan. 1 to Chicago in the dead of winter, wearing flip flops, that is unconscionable. That is inhumane and that is inconsistent with our values as a nation. But this order, writ large, is not about any one city."

Zoom in: Last week Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) called the new policy "a talking point" that does not address root causes of Venezuelan migration or provide necessary work permits for those already here.

The other side: Ald. Gilbert Villegas was more supportive, telling Block Club, "It's a responsible thing to do because it will allow for some of these asylum cases to at least allow for a timely process, a judicial process to take place," he said.

  • "Right now, you just have an unlimited amount of people coming. This is overwhelming the system, and so there has to be checks and balances."

The intrigue: Migrant arrivals to Chicago may remain slow this summer for another reason beyond the new border policies.

  • Last week, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg noted on the press call that, over the past two years, his administration has worked with Catholic Charities to buy thousands of plane and bus tickets to send migrants to other cities, often Chicago.
  • But "with diminished [federal] funding, we stopped purchasing travel for asylum seeking migrants," he said. "They must now be self-resourced."
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