Seventeen? Thirty-four? Eleventy-seven? Back in January, Joe Biden promised big reversals on immigration-enforcement policies “on day one” if elected, especially regarding asylum decisions:
Donald Trump has slammed the door shut in the face of families fleeing persecution and violence. On day one, I will eliminate President Trump’s decision to limit asylum and end the MPP program. #RestoreAsylumNOW https://t.co/3KLjtwEtNE
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 30, 2020
Promises, promises, say Susan Rice and Jake Sullivan. Now that they have the actual responsibility for immigration enforcement, suddenly the idea of immediate reversals don’t seem quite so palatable. That’s especially true given what might result from sending those signals:
Top advisers to president-elect Joe Biden said Monday they will not immediately roll back asylum restrictions at the Mexico border and other restrictive Trump administration policies, walking back some of Biden’s campaign promises for “Day One” changes.
Susan E. Rice, incoming domestic policy adviser, and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s pick for national security adviser, provided written statements in an exclusive interview with the Spanish wire service EFE saying they will “need time” to undo Trump’s immigration policies.
Rice said Biden will use executive authority to implement his immigration agenda, but her statements urging patience appeared to reflect the incoming administration’s worries that easing up too quickly on Trump’s enforcement system could trigger a new migration surge at the border.
You don’t say. Might that not be a good reason to have implemented Trump’s policies in the first place? It certainly appears to have Rice worried, slamming reports that are being “peddled” about the border opening up on January 21:
“Migrants and asylum seekers absolutely should not believe those in the region peddling the idea that the border will suddenly be fully open to process everyone on Day 1. It will not,” Rice said, according to a translation of the interview transcript.
Well, who exactly was “peddling” this as a Day One consequence in the first place? Joe Biden and the Democrats, that’s who. Literally, and not just in the Bidenesque rhetorical sense of the word. Biden’s pledge to end the MPP program “on day one” would have the consequence of opening the border again to anyone who claimed asylum status, whether justified or not.
What about the use of the CDC to reject asylum seekers on medical grounds? That should be pretty easy to reverse by executive order, but Rice says that will also take some time to unwind:
Asked about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that allows migrants to be quickly returned to their home countries for public health reasons – often within minutes or hours – Rice indicated that such a change will not be immediate.
“The current administration has badly damaged our asylum laws and processing capacity at the border at great cost to migrants seeking asylum,” she said. “Because of that, as well as the challenges presented by COVID-19, the Biden administration will need time to fix the situation.”
Translation: These policies might be more popular — and effective — than Biden and his team wanted to admit in the election cycle. At the very least, opening the border in the middle of a pandemic would be a political disaster, if not an epidemiological disaster. How do you tell Americans to stay within the walls of their houses while opening the walls of the country? Clearly, the answer is: you don’t.
That’s not to say that these policies won’t change, eventually. Biden and Democrats favor open-border policies, and we can expect to see a policy drift in that direction. The fact that they won’t make that a Day One goal shows, however, that those policies are not just popular but also useful. It won’t be the last promise that Biden breaks with progressives, either.