Biden’s Last-Minute Policy Changes Complicate Crisis at Border (OPINION)

May 12, 2023
12:36 PM

Migrants wait between two border walls to apply for asylum Thursday, May 11, 2023, in San Diego, California. Many of the hundreds of migrants between the walls that separate Tijuana, Mexico, from San Diego have been waiting for days to apply for asylum. Pandemic-related U.S. asylum restrictions, known as Title 42, expired on May 11. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a joint statement announcing an even more “robust plan to humanely manage the border through deterrence, enforcement, and diplomacy.”

“With the support of the Department of Defense and multiple countries across the Western Hemisphere, DHS and State are implementing that plan within the constraints of a broken immigration system that Congress has repeatedly failed to fix, including by not acting on President Biden’s comprehensive immigration reform proposal, bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers and farm workers, or repeated requests for additional resources,” the statement read.

U.S. State Department

The public health order known as Title 42 is a COVID-era restriction implemented by former President Donald Trump in 2020 to purportedly stop the spread of the coronavirus in the US. The policy is the brainchild of Stephen Miller, Trump’s former chief of staff who sought different avenues to close the border to asylum-seekers.

Regardless of whether using Title 42 was justified or not, COVID is no longer the threat we thought it was. But the lifting of Title 42 doesn’t mean that the southern border should be any more chaotic now than at any other time prior to the order.

The Biden administration and voters alike are right to castigate Congress, which has refused to act on immigration reform. But since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, immigration has been politically swept up in the national security debate which has been used to justify the inhumane treatment of individual asylum seekers and migrant families.

“Individuals who cross into the United States at the southwest border without authorization or without having used a lawful pathway, and without having scheduled a time to arrive at a port of entry, will be presumed ineligible for asylum, absent an applicable exception,” the statement outlined. “If removed, they will be barred from re-entry for at least five years and subject to potential criminal prosecution for repeated attempts to enter unlawfully.”

U.S. State Department

While the Biden administration suggests it is opening regional processing to direct individuals to lawful pathways, the press release indicates that the plan is to “eventually” open them at key locations.

In addition, the administration is deploying the first wave of military personnel to arrive in El Paso, Texas next week to support Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the 2,500 National Guard troops already present.

“The State Department plans to eventually open about 100 regional processing centers at key locations in the Western Hemisphere, and in the coming days will launch an online platform for individuals to make appointments to arrive at a center near them,” read the statement.

The new enforcement actions announced just hours prior to the end of Title 42 are likely to sow confusion at the southern border. While the administration says part of its focus is to address and counter misinformation, it is creating an environment that ensures migrants will be confused and misinformed regarding how and when they can apply for asylum.

U.S. State Department

Complicating matters further is the expanded use of the CBPOne app that doesn’t recognize the photos of people of color, which are required to use the app. Appointments through the app are also limited to just a few hundred per day. This is a point of frustration for asylum seekers and advocates alike as the rules for a legal pathway are fluid and seem to change daily.

With such constant procedural changes, the Biden administration’s policies all but ensure the chaos being predicted across news media.


Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American, anti-racist, journalist, and the publisher of The Antagonist magazine. Twitter: @ExtremeArturo