Biden’s sudden centrism boosted immigration

Biden's sudden centrism boosted immigration
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US President Joe Biden walks along the US-Mexico border fence in El Paso

President Biden walks atop the US-Mexico border fence in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden recently found support from border Democrats for what he sees as a new public strategy immigration.

Zoom in: The administration will provide the White House address and a A visit to El Pasoall the while, House Republicans were open to investigations into the administration’s handling of the border.

  • “I think on this issue he’s moving to where a lot of us want him to go. He’s moved to the center,” he said. Moderate border Democrat Henry Cuellar of Texas spoke to Axios after visiting the El Paso border with Biden.
  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who accompanied the president to the border in her district, agreed last week with a change in strategy.
  • Escobar told Axios that he thinks it’s the right approach, and that some of his more concerned colleagues have come forward.

Between the lines: Immigration has long been a political minefield — and the administration struggled to politically resolve a record number of border crossings.

Democrats have shown the inclination avoiding sensitive topics other than bashing Trump’s policies, such as family separation.

  • “As Democrats, we have to have a message,” Cuellar said. “We can have both. We can treat migrants with respect, but we can also provide security.”
  • Biden’s decision to announce the controversial new border patrols from the White House and then visit the border was surprising. “The country needs to hear from him,” Escobar said.

In the meantime, Republicans were more than happy to focus on immigration, especially thanks to efforts by some governors to bus migrants from border states to Democratic enclaves.

What is happening: The new policies, which offer new temporary, legal pathways but crack down on illegal border crossings and potentially make it harder for some migrants to gain asylum, have drawn complaints from Democrats and lawyers.

  • Sen. Bob Menendez (DN.J.) issued a scathing statement. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus peppered DHS Secretary Mayorkas questions and concerns in a closed, virtual meeting.
  • Comparisons have been drawn between Biden’s newly announced policies and those of Stephen Miller — even as a former Trump official It took to Twitter criticizing the expanded policy as an “amnesty”.
  • Escobar said he agreed with concerned activists and Democrats “1000% where I would like to be, but the reality is that those who live on the ground have a more realistic perspective.”

What they say: “Expanding pathways for legal immigration, increasing border security and reducing illegal immigration have been central tenets of President Biden’s approach to immigration from day one,” a White House official told Axios.

  • The official added that Biden “remained committed to these principles as he prepared his response to changing migration patterns, new court rulings and Congressional inaction.”

Big picture: Biden has embraced many of the priorities of progressive immigration advocates during the 2020 presidential election.

  • He made sweeping promises to end several Trump policies, enact legislation to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to become citizens, and end commercial immigration detention.
  • Since taking office, he has implemented many of these goals and has repeatedly called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
  • But a marked increase in border crossings, a shift in migrant nationalities and extensive logistical challenges facing federal agencies as well as border states have prompted him to take a more public stance on new border enforcement policies before 2024.

Bottom line: Some see change, but aren’t convinced the new policies are enough.

  • One Central American diplomat said Biden had changed his strategy on immigration and that his visit to the border was significant.
  • But the diplomat added that the new measures “will reduce the pressure a little in the short term”. They will not “solve the problem”.

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