With an estimated 14,000 people per day expected to attempt a US southern border crossing once Title 42 expires on December 21, it appears that the Biden administration is considering a Trumpian approach to migrant management. Reports suggest that a proposal to ban certain asylum applications for up to five months has been drafted and circulated among White House officials. While some may consider this a slight return to border control sanity, the Devil is, as ever, in the details.
Are You Sure the Border is Secure, Joe?
In the fiscal year 2023 – which began only two months ago in October – border patrol recorded a staggering half a million crossings. To compare, FY 2020 saw just 458,000. Digging deeper, migrant encounters at the border were 2,378,944 for 2022, a figure that neither includes the 599,000 known “gotaways” reported by border agents nor the people who evaded guards entirely (a number that by its nature is unknowable).
CBP noted that, in October of this year alone, on top of migrant encounters, more than 2,000 people per day were “gotaways.” When Title 42 ends, it is expected that up to 15,000 people will cross the border illegally on a daily basis, more than five million every year. But how will the potential new asylum restrictions impact these figures overall?
An Indecent Proposal?
The draft rule is reportedly due to last for at least five months and would impact both single adults and families. Information so far on the exact details remains light. Still, it is being widely reported that the proposal would severely curtail the number of people eligible to claim asylum. When former President Donald Trump implemented a similar scheme, he was roundly castigated by the press and activist organizations.
In fact, Lee Gelernt – who successfully argued against Trump’s “transit ban” on behalf of the ACLU – said that he intends to pursue Biden with equal vigor:
“We successfully sued over the transit ban under the Trump administration and will immediately sue if the Biden administration renews the ban. A transit ban is illegal regardless of which administration employs it.”
“They are playing dangerously with the machinery of the Trump administration. That policy was functionally an elimination of access to asylum at the southern border for most asylum-seekers,” said Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
So, if even outfits like the left-leaning ACLU are against the idea, surely some on the right who support border control will be pleased?
Asylum Numbers Just a Drop in the Ocean
Despite the Fourth Estate and the administration’s use of language surrounding those who cross the border illegally, the majority of individuals are certainly not actual asylum seekers. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, “Between July 2021 and July 2022, the department processed 1.079 million migrants stopped at the southwest border for removal. Of that 1.079 million, it cleared just 41,206 to apply for asylum or other humanitarian protection in the US.”
That’s just 3%. For those who think a five-month hold on asylum applications will make any significant difference to the overall numbers, a rude awakening is on the horizon.
Golden State Governor Gavin Newsom added to the general sense of disappointment at the current situation with his fears that the Biden administration rolling back Trump’s Title 42 policy will break California. “The fact is, what we’ve got right now is not working and is about to break in a post-42 world unless we take some responsibility and ownership,” the governor said on Monday. “The more we do, the burden is placed disproportionate on us.”
“We’re already at capacity at nine of our [immigrant processing] sites… We can’t continue to fund all of these sites because of the budgetary pressures now being placed on this state and the offsetting issues that I have to address.… The reality is, unless we’re doing what we’re doing, people will end up on the streets.”
Lawyers, activists, and politicians all oppose Joe Biden’s proposed plans one way or another – and that’s just on the left. Illegal immigration defined the first presidential campaign of Donald Trump and became one of the most contentious issues of his presidency; the current commander-in-chief finds himself caught in a similar trap involving both a rock and a hard place. And yet a solution remains that the administration fears to adopt: Renew Title 42 and accept that the “former guy” had it right. But that would mean giving credit where it’s due, something the White House has firmly opposed since day one.
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