Several Democratic members of Congress expressed disappointment with reports the Biden administration planned to reinstate a Trump-era policy detaining undocumented migrants and their families amid spiking levels of illegal border crossings in recent months.
This week, several media outlets reported the Biden administration was considering reviving the practice just two years after shutting it down in an apparent effort to reduce soaring incidences of undocumented crossings in the past year.
Entering the midterm election cycle last autumn, illegal border crossings were nearly three times higher under Biden than they were under Trump, while red-state bussing programs have resulted in unsustainable levels of undocumented migrants arriving in poorly-prepared jurisdictions like New York City, whose mayor recently described the crisis as a potential threat to public safety.
Biden administration officials like Department of Homeland Security Director Alejandro Mayorkas have also faced calls from Republicans to resign over their handling of the crisis, putting Biden in an increasingly tenuous position leading up to the 2024 presidential election.
“I think the Biden administration’s immigration policy has been an utter disaster,” Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz told Newsweek. “In two years, they have produced the worst crisis at our southern border in the history of our nation, over five and a half million illegal aliens.”
The reasons, Cruz said, resulted from the halting construction of the border wall and withdrawing from the “enormously successful” Remain in Mexico agreement as well as his administration’s inability to maintain the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which allowed DHS to turn away asylum seekers under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of those factors together have forced Biden to pursue other means to address the crisis.
“Whatever it takes to secure the border,” West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, who has expressed vocal concern over the state of the border, told Newsweek. “The border is a mess—It’s a disaster. So, I’m supporting anything we can to get control of that border and secure it.”
Those solutions, however, have proven unpopular among some members of his own party, which remains divided between its commitment to progressive border reforms Biden pledged as a candidate and the increasing pressure from Republican colleagues to address the crisis.
A Move In Which Direction?
Some of Biden’s recent policy changes—including a policy crackdown last month that could disqualify a vast majority of migrants from being able to seek asylum at the southern border—closely resemble some of those previously implemented by the Trump administration, raising protests from some party members who believed Biden was moving backward on immigration—particularly after Trump’s migrant detention program resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents despite a prior commitment from the former President to keep families who illegally crossed the border together after they were processed by DHS.
“It’s very disappointing,” Democratic Senator Alex Padilla of California, a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, told Newsweek in response to Biden’s policies. “We shouldn’t be going backwards. It didn’t make sense under Trump. It’s not going to make sense here.”
“This administration ended family detention. They were right then and they’d be wrong to go back to it now,” Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chair of the Foreign Relation Committee, told Newsweek. “As the president said in the past, it’s inhumane, and it is a relic of the Trump administration’s policies.”
The detention policy, however, earned praise from some members of the Senate like Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Border Management, who called Biden’s proposed policy change “entirely reasonable” if families are kept together.
“That’s done for every other entity or group,” Lankford told Newsweek. “It’s not unreasonable to be able to say that if they committed an illegal act together that they’re maintained. He’s not talking about family separation. He’s talking about how we actually maintain some sort of order. Quite frankly, prosecuted individuals are getting the opportunity to be able to apply for asylum but also having an expedited process is more than reasonable thing to do.”
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