This is why Joe Biden won't go to the border

AP Photo/Christian Chavez, File

As I described last week, the crisis at the border is about to get dramatically worse. There are tens of thousands of people waiting in camps on the Mexican side of the border for the end of Title 42. Whenever that happens, estimates suggest there could be 12,000 to 14,000 arrivals at the border per day. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has no coherent plan to deal with it.


Through all of this, Joe Biden has remained consistently on the sidelines. His refusal to go to the border to see the crisis he helped create up close has become a point of perverse pride. And the media, naturally, has sided with Biden. Last month Paul Waldman wrote an opinion piece mocking the whole idea of politicians visiting the border.

…border visits have a special place in the hearts of Republican politicians, who love the photo ops they provide (if you’re lucky, they let you ride in a helicopter) and who roundly criticize Democrats for not doing the same kind of playacting. After President Biden tasked Vice President Harris with coordinating immigration policy last year, Republicans quickly pretended to be outraged that Harris had not done a border visit, tricking media organizations intodemanding she explain her reluctance to perform the ritual.

What Democrats such as Harris surely realize is that the border visit photo op is meant to create the impression that immigration is not a policy challenge but a crisis, an emergency whose true horror must be witnessed firsthand. That’s the message Republicans send at these visits: Things are out of control, it’s an invasion, our country is being overwhelmed by foreigners and something must be done.

Here’s the problem with Waldman’s analysis. The border situation isn’t a policy challenge at this point, it’s a crisis. At the Arizona Republic, opinion columnist David Boaz said the Democratic response makes no sense.


The border is a mass of human dysfunction. Record numbers of immigrants are being swept up this year, indicating the flow of the undocumented crossing illegally is probably many times higher than that.

We’ve known all year the border is a mess, yet at the end of the year we’re witnessing a crush of humanity at our southern doorstep that is so overwhelming that even Democratic mayors of border cities are declaring emergencies.

What is the policy that drives this mass confusion, that seems disinterested as migrants overwhelm shelters from Yuma to El Paso and beyond?

Over at the Center for Immigration Studies, there’s a piece up today suggesting a very simple explanation for what’s happening, an explanation which also probably explains why Joe Biden refuses to go to the border.

Between December 14 and 15, the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and opinion outfits The Harris Poll and Harris X conducted a poll of 1,851 registered voters. Respondents were asked: “How many border crossings by illegal immigrants do you think are occurring each year?”

In response, 16 percent said “less than 100,000”, 21 percent said “between 100,000 and 250,000”, 18 percent said “between 250,000 and 500,000”, 20 percent said “between 500,000 and 1 million”, 12 percent said “between 1 million and 2 million”, 6 percent said “between 2 million and 3 million”, and 7 percent said, “over 3 million”.

In FY 2022, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended more than 2.2 million illegal entrants, not counting (as noted) 599,000 got-aways. That brings the total number of migrants to more than 2.8 million — more migrants than there are residents in 14 of the United States.

Thus, 87 percent of Americans underestimated how many illegal entrants there were last year, and more than half — 57 percent — were wrong by a factor of two.


This reminds me of that survey which asked people how many unarmed black men were shot by police in the year 2019. The correct answer is somewhere between 13 and 27 which means the blue line is closest to reality. But on the left (and in the center) the vast majority of respondents overestimated the number, with many estimating up to 10,000.

When people vastly overestimate, or in the case of the border crisis vastly underestimate, the scope of a problem they are likely to base their views of that situation and the public response on their misunderstanding. The left’s confusion about the border crisis benefits Biden because a lot of his base literally doesn’t know there’s a serious problem. And this is the key point: Biden doesn’t want them to know. His whole strategy on the border has been based around playing to that ignorance. Hence it’s always a “challenge” and never a crisis even when it’s historically the worst it has ever been.

The media mostly goes along with this because it is made up almost entirely of people who want Joe Biden to succeed. So we don’t hear about “kids in cages” or “concentration camps” anymore even though the situation is objectively much worse than it was in 2018 or 2019. There are some exceptions of course. Some reporters do a good job covering this, including some at major media outlets, but it always remains a kind of news filler story and never the main story and focus of outrage that it was during the Trump administration. The one thing that would force this onto the front pages where it belongs is the one thing the White House won’t do: Have Biden visit the border.


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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 25, 2024