President Biden is not throwing away
immigration policy. He’s throwing away the border policy of every president since
When the early 1990s dawned so did the realization behind what became known as “prevention through deterrence”—the U.S. may not be able to control its border but it can influence the incentives of those who seek to cross.
Experiments in the McAllen and El Paso sectors showed that beefed-up surveillance in urbanized border areas could curtail crossers then habituated to exploiting border-officer downtime or the presence of crowds. Constrict these pathways and the risks involved in crossing the open desert or the Rio Grande would do the job of semi-regulating illegal inflows.
This was hardly a lustrous way of proceeding. Mr. Trump would come along later with the naive old-school assumption that first you control the border and then you decide who gets in.
Which brings us to a question. Is anything deliberate going on in Mr. Biden’s reversal of this approach? His failure to hold a press conference in more than 50 days, unlike any president since Coolidge, might not be an issue if the country were confident that he’s on top of his game. The alternative? That unelected staffers, with no vision beyond not being Donald Trump and trying to placate progressive
users, have given us today’s border dynamic.
The same question comes up in relation to a bunch of issues: the wish list that passed Congress under the name coronavirus relief, the excessive investment in trying to relabel Trump’s vaccine policy as Biden’s, the strange alchemy by which Mr. Trump’s leverage over Iran becomes Iran’s leverage over Mr. Biden.
Some bombs were dropped three weeks ago on Syria. Was Mr. Biden involved in the deliberations or was there a second discussion about when and how to involve the president?
The press might like to ask but he’s not making himself available.
If triggering immigration chaos was a plan, the plan must have included an assumption the press would direct the public’s attention elsewhere in line with the theme that all such messes are Mr. Trump’s doing. It’s not working. A media that covered up the
laptop isn’t covering up a swelling crisis at the border, the deployment of the ill-suited Federal Emergency Management Agency to handle a deluge of unaccompanied minors, the release of hundreds of asylum seekers into the U.S. in return for questionable promises to show up for a court date.
Press coverage of the California road horror, after a van packed with 25 illegal migrants collided with a semi, suggests Mr. Biden can’t count on the subject being changed in his favor. As Mr. Trump fades in the rearview mirror, the media seems to have realized covering up news isn’t a business model to produce viewership and ad revenues in the long run.
Let’s back up. My favorite radio moments are when a sympathetic liberal source says something that goes right over the head of an NPR interviewer. At the height of the family reunification furor, an ACLU lawyer not only agreed with the Trump administration claim that families weren’t letting their children be returned to them. His solution amounted to: If an unaccompanied minor arrives at the U.S. border, the entire family should become entitled to emigrate to the U.S.
The point being that lots of organized interests by now are attuned to the U.S.’s unworkable, unenforceable, chaos-producing border policies. The Transnational Institute points out that the 13 biggest border security companies’ top employees contributed three times as much in 2020 to Mr. Biden as they did to Mr. Trump—$5,364,994 vs. $1,730,435. The statistic nobody keeps is how many would-be immigrants lose their deterrence bet, dying at the hands of traffickers, or in the Sonora desert or the Rio Grande. The Mexican government once estimated that 450 die annually on either side of the border.
The Biden strategy seems not devised to improve matters, if there’s any strategy at all. The administration has only incited a fresh flood of risk takers. If there’s a strategy, it may be a political strategy—the same as seen behind two gun-control bills last week passed by House Democrats. Cram as many gestures to the left as possible into the administration’s first weeks in hopes of changing the subject when next year’s Congressional midterms roll around.
Hope too that Congress’s and the Fed’s unlimited spending will coincide with a post-pandemic boom that an amnesiac media and public will interpret as the universe shining on Mr. Biden after the Trump darkness.
Ironically, the image-obsessed Mr. Trump did seem to care about concrete outcomes: a decline in border arrests, higher wages for unskilled workers, billions in tariffs collected from buyers of Chinese imports, vaccines—as if Mr. Trump mistily suspected there was a real world and a president could affect it. If Mr. Biden has such notions, he might hold a press conference to let us know.
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