Meet the new boss, etc: Biden and Harris following Trump plan on border closing too

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Or so Politico reports. Last year, Donald Trump closed the southern border, citing the pandemic and the need to contain it, but Kamala Harris and other Democrats accused Trump of using COVID-19 as a pretext. In an open letter to then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, Harris and her co-signers declared that “a public health crisis does not give the Executive Branch a free pass to violate constitutional rights.”

Apparently, that’s easy enough to write from the cheap seats:

Months before the election, then-Senator Kamala Harris signed on to a letter with fellow Democrats accusing the Trump administration of violating federal law when it took the drastic step of citing the pandemic to close down the Mexican border.

Now, after being sworn in as vice president, Harris backs the Biden administration’s decision to keep the border closed under that very same provision, according to two people familiar with her thinking.

The Biden administration has continued to use the Trump-era policy, often dubbed Title 42 in reference to the U.S. code, to effectively seal the border. It does so under the argument that migrants trying to cross could pose a health risk during the Covid outbreak.

There is at least one major difference between Trump and Biden on this point. Trump made it clear that the border was closed and that no asylum seekers would be allowed to cross. Biden spent the entire presidential campaign slamming Trump’s border policies, specifically on this point, and promised to change them. That set off a wave of pent-up migration for which Biden and his team were completely unprepared, and still have not gotten under control.

Having been burned by the border crisis, Biden’s not budging on the extended border closure, and apparently neither is Harris:

More than 60 House Democrats are urging President Joe Biden to end the policy, saying it has no legal basis. Dozens of public health experts say it has “no scientific basis as a public health measure.” Immigration advocates have filed legal challenges as well.

But Biden hasn’t budged; and Harris remains one of several Democrats who was critical of former President Donald Trump but has stayed quiet as the administration faces accusations that it is using Title 42 to control immigration but not the pandemic.

Politico’s Anita Kumar chalks this up to the belated realization that “quickly reversing Trump’s policies can create an abundance of political headaches and contribute to a host of other problems[.]” Kumar includes in that the need to deal with “a record number of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border,” but never mentions how Biden’s rhetoric and promises — and Harris’ too — incited that record-breaking wave.

And it’s not just “unaccompanied children,” either:

The number of illegal immigrants apprehended at the southern border hit a 21-year high last month, according to data released Tuesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

In all, CBP encountered 178,622 people attempting to enter the United States, a three percent increase from March, and the most encounters in a single month since April of 2000, when 182,613 illegal immigrants were apprehended.

The April increase was driven by an 11.2 percent increase in the number of single adults attempting to enter the US. A total of 111,301 were stopped by CBP in April, up from 100,104 in March.

By contrast, the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended by authorities dropped 9.4% to 17,171 in April from 18,960 in March. That’s still well above the previous high of 11,475 reported in May 2019.

Small wonder, then, that Biden and Harris now champion the Trump policy of closing the border.  Thanks to the incentives they themselves set, they can’t afford to reverse that policy — not without generating an even larger migration wave.

This is the difference between campaigning and governing. Biden and Harris certainly know how to campaign, but it’s increasingly clear that neither of them know how to govern, or even come up with a plan to do so. Just as with the global coordination on COVID-19, Biden and Harris love to talk about how they’ll excel and never come up with a coherent plan to deliver on their promises. In the end, they fall back to the previous plan and the status quo ante, but not before their incompetence leaves us worse off than before — and a lot of other people as well.