White House Toughens Border Policy

January 6, 2023 by Dan McCue
White House Toughens Border Policy
President Joe Biden speaks about border security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris stands at left. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the United States would immediately begin turning away Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans who cross the border from Mexico illegally.

The new rules expand on an existing effort to stop Venezuelans attempting to enter the U.S., which began in October and Customs and Border Protection officials have said led to a significant drop in Venezuelans coming to the southern border. 

“Do not, do not just show up at the border,” Biden said as he announced the changes. “Stay where you are and apply legally from there.”

The announcement came as the White House was finalizing plans for Biden’s first trip to the southern border as president.

On Sunday, he will travel to El Paso, Texas, to assess border enforcement operations and meet with local officials and community leaders who have been trying to manage the historic number of migrants fleeing South and Central America.

The president will then travel to Mexico City, where he will participate in the North American Leaders’ Summit on Monday and Tuesday, with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Biden noted that the policy changes announced Thursday represented just the latest of several attempts the administration has made to address the broken immigration system since he took office.

“Some of you may recall that on my first day in office I sent Congress a comprehensive piece of legislation that would completely overhaul the immigration system, cracking down on illegal immigration, strengthening legal immigration, and protecting Dreamers, those with temporary protected status, and farmworkers, who all are part of the fabric of our nation,” the president said.

“Congressional Republicans refused to even consider our plan,” he said.

And just last month, he added, GOP lawmakers rejected his request for an additional $3.5 billion to better secure the border and hire 2,000 new asylum officers and 100 new immigration judges.

Migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela now make up the majority of those crossing the border illegally, according to statistics compiled by the Department of Homeland Security. 

Cubans, who are leaving the island nation in their largest numbers in six decades, were stopped 34,675 times at the U.S. border with Mexico in November, up 21% from October. 

Nicaraguans, a large reason why El Paso has become the busiest corridor for illegal crossings, were stopped 34,209 times in November, up 65% from October.

But Venezuelans were seen far less at the border after Mexico agreed on Oct. 12 to begin accepting those expelled from the United States. They were stopped 7,931 times, down 64% from October.

Homeland Security officials said they would begin denying asylum to those who do not first ask for asylum in the country they traveled through en route to the U.S. border.

As a further incentive against illegal entry, officials said they will accept 30,000 people a month for two years and offer the ability to work legally, as long as they come legally, have eligible sponsors and pass vetting and background checks. 

“This new process is orderly. It is safe and humane, and it works,” Biden said.

Even as he announced the new policy, the president acknowledged that only Congress can make long needed changes to the U.S. immigration system.

“The actions we’re announcing aren’t going to fix our entire immigration system, but they will help us a good deal in better managing what is a difficult challenge,” Biden said.

When Congress might act on immigration is anybody’s guess, with the House currently paralyzed by the ongoing vote to choose its next speaker.

In the short term, however, the new Biden policy is being met with some concern.

“While we support the Biden administration’s work with leaders of the Western Hemisphere, NGOs on the ground and efforts to strengthen our border infrastructure and address forced migration in the region … we are greatly disappointed that the administration is moving forward with a ‘transit ban’ that would dramatically limit the legal rights of asylum seekers to seek protection at the southern border,” said Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub, an organization that advocates for fair and just immigration policies. 

Gonzales went on to urge the president “to steer clear” of policies like a transit ban and any expansion of the use of Title 42, “that undermine our values and the administration’s stated goal to build a more fair, humane, and orderly immigration system.”

He also called on congressional Republicans to stop what he described as their “anti-immigrant political crusade” and to get to work “on real solutions to fix our broken immigration system.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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