Joe Biden Tells Kamala Harris: Get Latino Gov’ts to Enforce Border Controls

President Joe Biden listens as Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

President Joe Biden directed Vice-President Kamala Harris on Wednesday to get the Mexican and Central American governments to forcibly block poor migrants moving towards the United States.

“The Vice President agreed … agreed to lead our diplomatic effort and work with those nations to accept returnees, and enhanced migration enforcement at their borders — at their borders,” Biden said in an afternoon press conference [emphasis added]. “We’re already talking to Mexico about that,” he revealed.

She will work with “the countries that need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border,” Biden explained.

“It’s clearly a sign that they take the potential political danger of the border crisis seriously,” responded Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He added:

They’ve announced they’re bribing Mexico with 2.5 million doses of vaccine in order to get Mexico to crack [Central American migrants’] heads down in southern Mexico … [and to] do the Biden administration’s dirty work [because] they don’t want to reimpose any of those Trump-era [border rules]. They’re hoping Mexico will do it for them.

But, he continued, “if all these [migrants] deserve asylum, how can they justify Mexico stopping them from coming here? This is incredibly cynical.”

The shift marks a rhetorical turnaround for the administration, which used its first days in office to demolish the multiple layers of border protections created by President Donald Trump. Those protections included diplomatic agreements with Central American countries, plus the Remain in Mexico policy that allowed the U.S. to keep migrants out of U.S. jobs while waiting for asylum claims to be processed by U.S. courts.

For weeks, administration officials have insisted that the resulting border crush is only a processing challenge — not a crisis of illegal migration. They argue that the border crush will be solved by building more welcome centers where migrants can get the legal advice and paperwork they need to apply for asylum, jobs, and green cards.

“The administration is treating this as though it’s a capacity issue and not an illegal behavior issue, and that’s a fundamental difference,” from President Donald Trump’s administration, Chad Wolf, former acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, told National Public Radio on March 23. “It’s ‘If we throw enough resources or people or money at it, we can address [it as] a capacity issue.’ Well, if you do it that way, you’re only encouraging more and more [migrants] to come.”

Harris offered the same process perspective, especially for the children and youths being delivered to the border by coyotes. “It’s a huge problem,” she said in a March 24 interview on “CBS This Morning,” adding:

Are we looking at overcrowding at the border in particular of these kids? Yes. Should these kids be in the custody of HHS, the Health and Human Services [agency], instead of the Border Patrol? Yes. Should we be processing these cases faster? Yes … There are things that we need to do, especially since there was a system in place previously, before the last administration, to allow us to process these kids in their country of origin. That was dismantled. We’ve got to reconstruct it.

But she also suggested that the government of Mexico and Guatemala can help reduce the border crush, saying:

But you know, we have senior administration officials now in Mexico and Guatemala, also dealing with — in addition to what needs to happen at the border — with the causes … We also need to deal with the root causes.

After Biden announced she would get the job, Harris responded:

I look forward to engaging in diplomacy with government, with private sector, with civil society and the leaders of each in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, and ensure shared prosperity in the region.

Despite the rhetorical turnaround, Biden’s deputies continued to announce the creation of new centers to welcome migrants and to provide them with the legal paperwork and work permits they need to stay in the United States. On Wednesday, for example, Pentagon officials announced they would build three new camps to process migrants.

Once process, the migrants can move into Americans’ jobs, the housing market, and K-12 schools.

The outsourcing of the nation’s border policy to Mexico and the other countries may be a political compromise among Biden’s rival deputies, Krikorian said:

The [immigration] zealots get satisfied because they don’t change our [easy migration] policy, and the [White House’s] political guys are satisfied because Mexico will do the dirty work of stopping [migrant] people outside the gaze of our news channels. They’re trying to have it both ways, where our policy remains “open hearts and open arms” and all that, while Mexico tries to stop the migrants.

“That’s just not [politically] sustainable,” said Krikorian, because it asks non-Americans to physically enforce pro-American border rules that American leaders will not enforce.

But Harris was likely picked for the enforcement jobs because she best able to contain the expected furious backlash from Biden’s many pro-migration allies. The Washington Post downplayed the political risk for Harris:

President Biden on Wednesday tapped Vice President Harris to oversee efforts to slow the rush of migrants to the southern border, handing her a high-profile and politically fraught assignment amid fresh concerns from lawmakers and activists about the growing crisis.

[…]

The balance will not be easy. Human rights activists have raised concerns about migrants’ treatment at the border and the housing provided for children. If those worries do not subside, Harris could face backlash from a Democratic base that is already frustrated with Biden on immigration issues.

Biden did not explain what incentives he will offer to officials in Mexico or Guatemala to forcibly seal the U.S. border against poor Latinos. But he and his deputies have repeatedly made clear that they regard Trump’s enforcement policies as inhumane.

On March 1, homeland security chief Alejandro Mayorkas said his agency is “working around the clock to replace the cruelty of the past administration with an orderly, humane, and safe immigration process.” Jen Psaki, Biden’s spokeswoman, said in early March that Trump’s border policies were “inhumane and ineffective.”

The sudden shift from process to foreign enforcement comes as multiple polls showing increasing concerns by swing-voters about the rising migrant wave released by Biden and his border chief, Alejandro Mayorkas.

For example, 44 percent of independent voters say the immigration has “gotten worse” under Biden, according to a March 19-21 poll conducted by Politico and Morning Consult. Just 12 percent say it has “gotten better,” said the poll of 1994 registered voters.

But there is room for a bigger shift against Biden.

Twenty-nine percent of independents said immigration has “stayed the same” under Biden, likely because they do not follow or care about the issue. Those people may soon decide that immigration has gotten worse.

The Morning Consult question also showed that 44 percent of people who “somewhat approve” of Biden’s job performance say the immigration system “has stayed the same” since Biden was inaugurated. The “stayed the same” people may quickly shift into the “gotten worse” column once they see more migrants rush north to accept Biden’s offers of likely asylum, work permits, housing, and citizenship.

Even 28 percent of Democrats who “strongly approve” of Biden say the immigration system has “stayed the same.” Some of these may shift into the “gotten worse” column as more migrants appear at the border.

Biden is unlikely to lose more support among GOP supporters because Biden already has rock-bottom support among the GOP supporters. For example, the poll showed that 79 percent of GOP supporters say the immigration system has “gotten worse,” and only 5 percent say it has “gotten better.”

 

 

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