What Happened to Biden's Border Plan?

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Politico has a follow up on something which seems pretty strange in retrospect. Just a few months ago, the Biden administration was leaking to the media that it was about to crack down on illegal immigration. Specifically, we were told there might be an executive order coming intended to limit the surge of asylum seekers. But all of that seems to have faded away.

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A month ago, the White House was openly considering a string of executive actions to curb migration at the southern border. But no announcements were made. And now, immigration advocates who had been engaged with the Biden administration about the moves say they no longer appear imminent...

The administration’s change in posture is owed, in part, to the downtick in migration numbers following a record-breaking number of illegal crossings in December. There remain questions about whether any action taken by the White House would pass legal muster. But while internal conversations around policy moves have continued, Biden aides also note that media coverage is less intense than it was earlier this year.

“They’re in that pretty classic mode of, nothing is on fire right now,” said an immigration policy advocate, granted anonymity to discuss private conversations about the administration’s border policy considerations.

It's not clear when exactly this change of approach happened. The White House probably got an early look at January border numbers shortly after those stories were published in early February. All we know for sure is that by the time of the State of the Union rolled around a month later, Biden's team had decided they could get away with doing nothing so long as they could blame shift the problem to Republicans for not passing a bill.

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President Biden used his State of the Union remarks on Thursday to forcefully call on Republican lawmakers in Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration compromise that stalled last month, accusing them of derailing the proposal for political reasons.

"I'm told my predecessor called members of Congress in the Senate to demand they block the bill," Mr. Biden said, referring to former President Donald Trump, his likely Republican rival in the 2024 presidential election.

Congressional Republicans, the president said, "owe it to the American people" to pass the proposal.

"Send me the border bill now!" Mr. Biden added.

Sunday night 60 Minutes interviewed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka ALMO) and pointed out that after the White House begged him for help as border crossings hit a record high in December, the numbers dropped in January. ALMO has a list of absurd demands which he says are necessary to get to the root of the immigration problem. So far Biden hasn't agreed to meet any of those demands, but ALMO's ability to control migration at his own southern border could have a real impact on Biden's reelection chances.

What happens if the border encounter numbers start to spike again this spring? Does the White House go it alone on an executive order aimed at asylum seekers? Does it pressure ALMO to help them bring the numbers down long enough to help Biden get reelected? I don't know the answer to those questions but it seems like a very unusual situation for a foreign leader to potentially have so much political power over a US presidential election. 

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Put it this way, we've already heard concerns about the possibility that Russia and/or China will be attempting to meddle in our election somehow but it's hard to see how either country could directly influence the outcome the way that that ALMO can between now and the Mexican election in June. Yet this influence doesn't seem to garner as much media attention. Back in January the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece titled "Is AMLO Blackmailing Biden?"

A joint U.S.-Mexico communiqué issued by the White House on Dec. 28 called “democratic decline” one of the root causes of heavy migration flows at the border between the two countries. Mexico’s release of the communiqué the same day, in Spanish, omitted that phrase.

Word has it that Mexico’s Foreign Ministry threw a hissy fit when it saw the White House’s assertion that there is a connection between repression—think Caracas, Havana and Managua—and large waves of emigration. Whether the U.S. tried to defend its language isn’t clear. But those words were rapidly struck from the White House post so that the amended communiqué matched the Mexican version...

It would be nice to think that this incident was but a small blip in an otherwise healthy relationship between two North American democracies. It was no such thing. Instead it was the latest example of how the Biden administration bows to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on matters big and small.

AMLO has the upper hand with Mr. Biden because Mexico controls the migrant flows from Tapachula, on its border with Guatemala, to its northern border with the U.S. Mr. Biden needs Mexico’s cooperation as he strives to preserve reckless U.S. immigration policy and still get re-elected.

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It makes me wonder if that's not one more unspoken reason why the White House's plan to issue an executive order on migration suddenly disappeared from their agenda. No doubt ALMO wouldn't have liked that plan and right now Biden can't afford to have ALMO working against him by opening the flood gates to the US border.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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