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Biden’s risky asylum crackdown strategy

Before Republicans torpedoed it, the bipartisan deal on Ukraine and border security provided a rare opportunity for President Biden this year.

This gave him the opportunity to push for tough immigration restrictions to deal with the politically problematic influx at the southern border, while credibly arguing that this was the price he had to pay to win gains. Republican votes for Ukraine. It was already possible to assume that Biden wanted to do these things anyway, and that the deal gave him political cover to sell it to the pro-immigration forces in his party.

The Republicans seemed to realize this. Although Biden had offered them much of what they had wanted for years – particularly much stricter asylum restrictions – they decided to walk away, apparently in part to help Donald Trump in an election year by denying Biden a political victory that could have eased his political burden at the border. Congress passed funding for Ukraine anyway, and here we are.

Now it looks like we’re going to impose some of those asylum restrictions, too — at least temporarily, thanks to an executive order that Biden is set to sign on Tuesday.

Biden’s idea seems popular. But the ground is more fragile, both politically and legally, than a border agreement would have been.

The executive order would halt asylum applications when illegal border crossings exceed a daily threshold — likely 2,500 — as the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff and Toluse Olorunnipa reported. Standard processing would then resume when crossings fall below 1,500. Given that we are currently seeing around 3,500 daily crossings, the closure is expected to take effect immediately and could last for some time.

The first thing to note is that Americans as a whole seem to agree theoretically with this idea. The country has drifted in a distinctly skeptical direction toward immigration in recent years, and asylum is no exception:

  • A March Associated Press-NORC poll showed Americans agreed 53 percent to 24 percent that we should “reduce the number of immigrants allowed to seek asylum.”
  • An Ipsos poll last month showed Americans favored allowing asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while awaiting a decision on their applications, 61-20.
  • Just 24 percent of respondents in a January Economist/YouGov poll said asylum seekers should be allowed to live in the United States until their cases are resolved.

Applying for asylum is difficult because Americans largely sympathize with those fleeing persecution in their home countries. But there seems to be a consensus that this process is being abused or, at least, causing an unsustainable situation at the border, and that it should not be a free ticket to the United States.

That said, it is not a clear win-win that a deal including funding for Ukraine and action at the border would have been.

One reason is that while many Democrats want to be tougher on the border, Biden’s decision risks alienating a substantial portion of his party — and particularly key constituencies with which he is already in conflict. difficulty.

  • A New York Times/Siena College poll in November showed that the groups least supportive of making it harder to apply for asylum were Democrats (31%), young people (32%) and black voters (38%). . Young voters and black voters are more hesitant to support Biden than any recent Democratic presidential candidate.
  • A Pew Research Center poll from January showed that Hispanics — another key group with whom Biden performed poorly — were about evenly divided on whether to make it harder for asylum seekers to obtain Temporary legal status would improve the situation at the border.
  • Similarly, the AP-NORC poll showed that only 35 percent of Democrats agreed that we should reduce the number of immigrants allowed to seek asylum.

A big question is how much Democrats are pushing back against Biden. We are starting to see some critics make their voices heard – albeit with some gentleness. Are they going to give him the opportunity to do this sort of thing in the hopes that it might help him in November?

Beyond that, there are potential legal and practical issues.

The Republicans’ main argument when they gave up on the Ukraine and border bill was that Biden hadn’t even done it. need legislation to close the border – despite their years of pretending otherwise. Now he’s actually testing this.

But that could prove to be a temporary and ineffective solution without Congress codifying the changes. The right to seek asylum is protected by law. Trump’s efforts as president to crack down on borders and asylum seekers were often struck down by the courts. Biden relies on similar authority. And experts are skeptical that the courts will approve Biden’s order or that it can even be carried out without Congress authorizing additional resources.

Biden has in the past expressed a willingness to try to get his own way when Congress fails to cooperate, even at the risk of being overturned by the courts. When he advanced an eviction moratorium in 2021, he acknowledged that “the majority of constitutionalists say it is unlikely to be constitutional.”

“But at a minimum, by the time this goes to trial, it will probably give a little bit more time while we hand over that $45 billion to people who are actually behind on rent and who don’t ‘have no money,’ Biden said. .

The Supreme Court quickly canceled the moratorium on evictions.

The calculus with his asylum decree seems similar: It might not work, but the situation at the border is so bad (and politically troubling for him) that it’s worth a try. And if this proposal is rejected, he will at least be able to explain how Republicans blocked a more lasting solution.

In the meantime, however, Biden has a sales job to his base.


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