Since taking office, President Joe Biden has faced sustained criticism over his handling of immigration at the southern border. However, with his party faring better than expected in the midterm elections, Biden could choose to double down on his slackening enforcement.
Biden visited Phoenix, just 100 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, on Tuesday and was asked why he wouldn’t also visit the border, where some 200,000 illegal crossings occur per month.
“There are more important things going on,” Biden told reporters on the White House South Lawn. “They’re going to invest billions of dollars in the new enterprise in the [Arizona].”
GOP officials such as Govs. Doug Ducey (AZ) and Greg Abbott (TX) may disagree. The two made headlines this spring by sending buses full of volunteer immigrants to major cities in an effort to get the issue on the president’s radar.
The Border Patrol is apprehending 150,000 to 230,000 people at the southern border monthly, and the majority are not expelled. That average was well under 100,000 per month for most of the Trump presidency.
“Let’s have a bipartisan agreement on immigration instead of doing political stunts, instead of doing what they’re doing: going to the border, not actually coming up with any real ideas about that,” she said.
The next day, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) defeated GOP challenger Herschel Walker in Georgia’s runoff election, delivering a historically successful midterm cycle for Democrats in which they lost just six seats in the House and even gained a seat in the Senate.
Republicans have promised to conduct oversight investigations into the border crisis using their slim majority. But it may have little impact, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Lora Ries.
“This trend will continue until a terrorist attack occurs in the U.S. or Congress completely defunds the Biden administration’s open border operations, whichever comes first,” said Ries, director of the conservative think tank’s Border Security and Immigration Center.
“A president’s No. 1 job is to protect Americans,” Ries continued. “Not only has he opened our border for terrorists and serious criminals to cross at will, Biden has such a low regard for the American people and our border agents that he can’t be bothered to visit the border to see the damage he is causing or talk to his agents on the ground.”
There has been some movement on the issue in Congress during the post-election lame-duck session.
Senators are seeking to pass a bipartisan immigration bill to tighten border security in return for a pathway to citizenship for 2 million people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) have reached an initial deal on concessions that each party would have to make, which includes the Department of Homeland Security receiving a big boost in resources as well as court proceedings for the 2 million people who illegally crossed the southern border over the past year.
Democrats would get a permanent solution for “Dreamers,” noncitizens who were approved for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“The Senate continues to sell out Americans in favor of open border globalists who fund their campaigns,” Ries said, joining other conservatives in opposing the bill. “The only bill Congress should be passing is one that truly secures our borders. Amnesty fails the border security test because it encourages more illegal aliens to enter the U.S. and to stay here in hopes of gaining amnesty too.”
After seeing success in the midterm elections, in which voters did not significantly reject the Biden administration over record border crossings, the president may continue downplaying the issue publicly. Biden may also fear the “deporter in chief” label his former boss Barack Obama received before leaving office.
Still, there is polling that suggests people remain concerned about border security. A new Rasmussen Reports survey done with the hard-line immigration reform group NumbersUSA found that 67% of respondents backed a wall and other barriers, including 49% of Democrats.
Overall, 60% listed the border crisis as one of their top three issues, and most faulted Biden for the growing disaster.
Republican strategist John Feehery says the GOP has done a good job of framing the issue for voters and should continue pushing border security during the rest of Biden’s first term.
“Republicans have effectively linked the chaos at the border with the exploding overdose crisis in small towns and big cities across the country,” he said. “Biden doesn’t have an answer, and that’s why he doesn’t travel to look at it himself. I am all for immigration reform, but Republicans really should insist on securing the border first.”