After he was elected Democratic nominee, Biden committed to major progressive policies on the issue and has already begun to implement them. His administration was forced to face an unusually large number of immigrants trying to cross the border to the United States from Mexico. This has angered both critics as well as allies.
The administration's immigration point man Alejandro Mayorkas is the focus of much of the anger.
Mayorkas stated on NBC last weekend that "Getting hit from both ends in the matter immigration is not surprising." "We are at the epicenter the country's division, regrettably."
This has led to immigration becoming an unwanted distraction for an administration that would rather concentrate on the economy, the pandemic and other policy priorities.
According to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 35% of Americans approve Biden's handling on immigration. This is down from 43% who approved in April when it was one of Biden’s most difficult issues. Only 60% of Democrats approve of Biden's handling on immigration.
Images Border Patrol agents riding on horseback to stop Haitian migrants crossing the Rio Grande only exacerbated the anger. Despite the fact that the photos were incorrectly implying that agents were whipping at predominantly Black migrants, Mayorkas (and Biden) expressed outrage and Homeland Security is investigating.
Mayorkas was so outraged that he was asked if his Department was a "rogue Agency."
Many of Biden's most loyal supporters on Capitol Hill as well as outside immigrant advocates were already outraged at the administration's continuing reliance upon a Trump-era federal health authority, Title 42 to quickly expel migrants, including thousands from Haiti.
Marielena Hincapie is the executive director of National Immigration Law Center. She was also once co-chair of a taskforce on immigration that was meant to unify Biden supporters and more progressive primary backers for Sen. Bernie Sanders. Hincapie noted that the White House has "appointed some of the most talented people in our movement" as immigration program managers.
She is opposed to Title 42 which Trump's administration invoked in the pandemic to slow down the spread of COVID-19. It prohibits individuals from claiming U.S. asylum.
Hincapie stated, "This is when friends need to have these courageous conversations with their friends." When they make a wrong decision."
Supporters have warned of a return of the enforcement-heavy policies of President Barack Obama after the administration refused to halt Title 42. They even appealed a court order requiring them to cease relying on it for expulsion families.
Todd Schulte, president and CEO of FWD.us (an immigration advocacy group supported by many of the nation's top tech companies), said that "they've been there since eight months." They are actively seeking policies that are quite different from the ones they promised. They are not pursuing the right policies. But, the direction they continue to go is wrong."
In its initial years, the Obama administration dramatically increased the number deported migrants to show Republicans that it was stepping up enforcement and trying to pass its comprehensive immigration package through Congress. Finally, 3 million people were expelled by officials. This led activists to call Obama "deporter in chief". However, Congress didn't take any action regarding an immigration overhaul.
"The administration's current calculation is that they will have better chances of getting Congress to pass broad-based immigration reforms if the border can be 'under control'," said Theresa Cardinal Brown (managing director of cross-border policy at Bipartisan Policy Centre). That was the theory behind the Obama administration.
The Biden administration, like the Trump and Obama administrations, has seen an increase in migrants crossing the border illegally or to present themselves at Border Patrol agents to claim asylum.
August saw just over 208,000 encounters with migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico. This is a slight decrease from July, but still the highest level since March 2000. It also marks the highest number since President Donald Trump's last major increase in 2019.
Title 42 has inflated the current total, with approximately 25% of encounters involving people recaptured after being expelled from the public health authority. These numbers have also been increasing due to COVID-19 ravages to Latin American economies, and the perception that Biden is more welcoming than Trump.
Biden responded by trying to address the " root cause" of migration by increasing aid for Central America which was cut under Trump and restoring a program that allowed children from the region to apply to visas to come to the U.S.
His administration also used newly-proposed federal laws to strengthen legal protections for illegal immigrants brought to this country as children.
Cecilia Munoz is the director of White House Domestic Policy Council under Obama. "I'm confident the president will use all tools at his disposal, however, the administrative tools are insufficient to fix what needs fixing," she said. For the belief that the budget will not include immigration reform, she blames the opposition of Republican lawmakers and the incorrect application of Senate rules.
The Trump-era policy of exiling children from Mexico alone under Title 42 has been stopped by the Trump administration. This has allowed thousands to remain in the U.S. as they seek asylum. While this process can often end in denial, it can take many years before a final decision is made.
However, it has continued to use Title 42 for expulsion of many families and almost all single adults. Mayorkas insists that Title 42 is a necessary public safety measure to reduce the spread COVID-19 within detention facilities.
Aaron Reichlin–Melnick is the American Immigration Council's policy counsel. He argues that Title 42 can cause more problems than it's worth. Title 42 will inflate the number of encounters. This is still a far lower level than 20 years ago.
Reichlin-Melnick stated that Title 42 had caused a lot of churn at border and that the end result has not been a safer border. "It has resulted in a decrease in people's ability to seek protection, and an overstressed Border Patrol that doesn't have enough capacity to deal with this level of activity.
In a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the federal judge ruled that the use of Title 42 to deny people asylum was likely illegal and issued a preliminary injunction stopping its use. Further aggrieved by critics, the Biden administration appealed.
Anthony Romero is the ACLU's executive Director. He stated Monday at a forum that he supports administrative actions regarding immigration and Mayorkas. He said that the ACLU filed over 400 legal actions under Trump and will continue to challenge Biden on Title 42, among other matters.
Romero stated, "I believe litigation is as important as holding the feet to fire of our quote "allies" as it is about fighting civil rights foes."