Politics: Biden promised a 'fair and humane' immigration overhaul. What he inherited is a mess.

‘Recipe for disaster’: Dem fears mount over immigration overhaul

  ‘Recipe for disaster’: Dem fears mount over immigration overhaul “Biden is going to be dealing with a minority in Congress if he continues down some of these paths,” said one Democratic congressman.Biden has not yet implemented expansive policy changes. The vast majority of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are still being turned away. Deportations are still taking place and there’s still no pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Ask a progressive about President Joe Biden’s immigration policy, and most will insist he needs to move faster: Unravel Trump-era policies. Open the door to more migrants. Boldly overhaul the existing system.

a statue of Joe Biden standing next to a clock: One month in, President Joe Biden is facing the reality that building the “fair and humane” immigration system he promised on the campaign trail is a huge undertaking. © AP Photo/Evan Vucci One month in, President Joe Biden is facing the reality that building the “fair and humane” immigration system he promised on the campaign trail is a huge undertaking.

Ask a Republican, and most will insist Biden is doing it all wrong: Dismantling Trump’s legacy is too radical. The president needs to keep the borders closed. A migrant crisis is brewing — or already here.

One month in, Biden is facing the reality that building the “fair and humane” immigration system he promised on the campaign trail is a huge undertaking. Migrants aren’t going to stop coming just because his officials say they shouldn’t. Nor are progressives and Republicans going to stay quiet just because he asks for patience.

The new Biden-backed immigration bill, explained

  The new Biden-backed immigration bill, explained Democrats are pushing a comprehensive approach to immigration reform — for now.If passed, the long-anticipated bill, known as the US Citizenship Act of 2021, would mark the most sweeping reform of the US immigration system since 1986 — and would be a rebuke of former President Donald Trump’s nativist agenda.

As a result, the administration is relying on controversial practices of past presidents – housing unaccompanied minors in temporary detention facilities, applying a Trump-era pandemic rule to rapidly expel migrants at the border without due process — even as officials quietly try to draw up new policies to handle migrants at the Southern border that are a break from the past.

Biden officials have provided scant details, however, on how, exactly, they plan to tackle the problems on the border that bedeviled their predecessors.

“It’s one thing to make promises. It’s another thing to execute on those promises,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the advocacy group America’s Voice.

Sharry added that the Biden administration must do a better job of communicating “the landmines that were left [by former President Donald Trump], the disaster they’re trying to clean up and the time it’ll take to do that” to avoid widespread confusion, Sharry said.

Biden wades into immigration morass that has stymied other presidents

  Biden wades into immigration morass that has stymied other presidents President Biden is hoping to succeed where the last three presidents have failed by proposing his own legislation revamping immigration. © Provided by Washington Examiner While diametrically opposed to former President Donald Trump’s approach, the Biden-backed immigration bill follows in the footsteps of unsuccessful pushes by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to increase legal immigration and offer a pathway to citizenship for most illegal immigrants in the United States.

“When people don’t know, they get frustrated and they get more antagonistic. And that’s not a good dynamic,” he said.

Some advocates, former U.S. officials and immigration experts recognize that Biden could be holding back details of his future plans to avoid triggering large numbers of migrants heading to the U.S.-Mexico border. That could create a situation along the border that the government is currently unprepared to handle.

“The Biden administration is picking up from a Trump administration that didn’t plan. Their only plan was to keep people out,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former Department of Homeland Security official.

“We constantly are planning for a response to the last thing rather than thinking ahead to the next thing,” Brown said. “The crisis is not necessarily ‘oh my God, the numbers of migrants.’ The crisis is that we have not done the work necessary to think” and plan ahead, she said.

The immigration debate has a blind spot

  The immigration debate has a blind spot The change in immigration policy that could most affect the US' long-term economic growth is at risk of falling out of the debate as the congressional maneuvering over the volatile issue intensifies. © George Frey/Getty Images In this April 10, 2019, file photo, an applicant holds an American flag and a packet while waiting to take the oath to become a US citizen at a naturalization ceremony in Salt Lake City.

‘A DIFFICULT CHOICE’ ON UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN

The Biden administration on Monday reopened a detention facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, amid a growing number of migrant teenagers crossing the border unaccompanied by a parent — news that quickly sparked outrage with critics quickly tying it back to the Trump-era “kids in cages.” The facility, used by the Trump administration in 2019, was the source of much protest and criticism from Democrats, advocates and immigration attorneys.

But the facility is not reopening under the same conditions or for the same reasons as it was used under the Trump administration, Biden officials said. They opened the temporary facility because permanent shelters, run by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, are currently filling up as they’re running at about half capacity due to pandemic protocols.

The facility is not the same as those run by Customs and Border Protection. Federal law dictates that unaccompanied children arriving at the border, must be transported out of CBP facilities within 72 hours (although it often surpasses that timeframe). From there, they’re placed in an HHS-run shelter — which is still considered by advocates and attorneys to be unsuitable for children — until they’re matched with a vetted sponsor.

Immigration a focus as Biden holds virtual talks with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador

  Immigration a focus as Biden holds virtual talks with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador President Joe Biden’s efforts to chart a new course on immigration continues with a virtual meeting with Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.Biden has started to unwind several of former President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policies, and he’s promised better relations with Mexico.

Still, this week, the Biden administration caught flak from progressives for taking unaccompanied migrant children to detention facilities. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez slammed the Biden administration Tuesday night, tweeting, “This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay - no matter the administration or party.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday defended the administration’s handling of migrant children arrivals. She explained Biden is focused on quickly placing children with vetted families. But in the meantime, she said, the HHS facilities have been revamped and have medical and educational services available. Under Trump, the U.S. government focused its efforts on stopping immigration and keeping migrants out, not addressing conditions of migrant detention.

“We have kids coming across the border. It is heartbreaking… we only have a couple of choices. What we are not doing is dividing these kids and separating them from their parents at the border,” Psaki said. “This is a difficult situation. It’s a difficult choice. That’s the choice we’ve made.”

In January, more than 5,700 children arrived at the border alone, according to CBP figures. Federal officials are bracing for more arrivals while shelters for children are already more than 90 percent full under pandemic capacity limits. The Miami Herald reported there are plans to reopen a detention center in Homestead, Fla, that was previously run by a for-profit company.

Trump, Miller Think Road to 2022 Victory Is Immigration, Democrats See It as a Failed Playbook

  Trump, Miller Think Road to 2022 Victory Is Immigration, Democrats See It as a Failed Playbook In his CPAC speech, Donald Trump said Biden has "triggered a massive flood of illegal immigration into our country, the likes of which we have never seen before."The issue was famously one of the first things the former president brought up as a candidate in 2016, although he did not prioritize it in his 2020 race.

The Biden administration has not publicly discussed a future alternative to handle the influx of unaccompanied children at the border. For now, Biden officials have settled on not expelling them from the country, but they’ve offered few details on how they will do things differently in the future.

USING A TRUMP-ERA RULE WHILE PLANS ARE MADE

The crisis Biden is facing at the border today isn’t the result of a mass influx of migrants, but rather the fact that there is simply no infrastructure in place to handle migrant arrivals in an orderly way. And with that, Biden has opted to keep a Trump-era Covid-19 emergency declaration, known as Title 42, that effectively seals off the border from all migration in the name of the pandemic.

Despite Republican contentions that the border is open, the vast majority of migrants are still being turned away under Biden. Democrats and immigrant advocates are pushing Biden to stop using the public health order, which Trump used to quickly send back hundreds of thousands of migrants without allowing them to seek asylum or have due process.

The Biden administration has not said when it will stop using Title 42, likely because it knows that would trigger more migration at a time where no new large-scale policy is in place.

On Tuesday, a group of more than 60 Democrats, including Reps. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), urged DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas to end expulsions using the Trump-era public health rule. They argue the rule was never really imposed for public health, but instead was a tool to keep migrants out. The lawmakers also asked Mayorkas to “employ alternative forms of humanitarian relief for individuals subject to deportation until we have this virus under control.”

White House Looks to Rebound After 'Botched' Rollout of Migrant Centers for Children

  White House Looks to Rebound After 'Botched' Rollout of Migrant Centers for Children The administration's messaging on the reopened facilities began with what many Democrats and immigration activists characterized as a misfire.What the White House wanted to avoid was the topic of immigration, Univision sources familiar with the weeks-long planning for the interview said. But that became increasingly untenable after a botched rollout of the reopening of Trump-era migrant facilities for kids forced the Biden administration to defend itself from attacks across the political spectrum, and persistent questions from reporters on whether there was already a nascent border crisis so early in his term.

Right now, a limited number of migrants who have successfully crossed the border illegally are allowed to remain in the United States. That’s partly because of a new Mexican law that bars the detention of small children, which leaves the U.S. with limited options to handle those families’ arrivals. And again, because of the pandemic, detention facilities don’t have enough space for families with children.

The Biden administration also recently began to slowly let in migrants that were, due to a Trump-era policy, forced to remain in Mexico while their U.S. immigration cases were processed. There are roughly 25,000 migrants in the “Remain in Mexico” program — formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, who will ultimately be let into the country.

Democrats, advocates and immigration attorneys have expressed cautious optimism regarding Biden’s opening moves on asylum seekers. But some are worried that Title 42 is the only thing keeping unmanageable numbers of migrants from arriving at the border. That’s due to the policy changes, combined with Biden’s friendlier rhetoric and the unchanged root causes of migration — like violence and poverty — in certain Central American countries.

That puts Biden in a tough spot with advocates and progressives who are demanding immediate action. Meanwhile, some moderate Democrats are raising concerns that a crisis — perceived or real — will impact the party’s 2022 electoral prospects and acutely impact border communities already struggling with the pandemic.

“Title 42 is the only thing that’s giving them breathing room to plan what they would do without Title 42,” Brown said. “And I hope they’re using this time to get ready.”

Special Report: How Trump administration left indelible mark on U.S. immigration courts .
Special Report: How Trump administration left indelible mark on U.S. immigration courts(Reuters) - On a rainy September day in 2018, Jeff Sessions, then U.S. attorney general, addressed one of the largest classes of newly hired immigration judges in American history.

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