Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra has been urging the Biden administration to restore the 15,000 cap on refugee admissions while the border crisis continues unabated. Becerra does not believe his department has the bandwidth to deal with the crisis and a large increase in refugee admissions at the same time. Politico reports:
Becerra in the meantime has been privately frustrated by the White House's rush to ease a series of immigration guardrails well before he was confirmed to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, allies said, including a key decision to allow unaccompanied immigrant children to remain in the country.
The moves contributed to the already-growing buildup at the southern border, and have since saddled Becerra with managing the fallout from a record influx of asylum seekers.
The Washington Post has a timeline of the administration’s rushed rollback, which Politico says “contributed to the already-growing buildup at the southern border, and have since saddled Becerra with managing the fallout from a record influx of asylum seekers.”
- Biden issued more executive orders and actions on immigration than any other topic, including a 100-day deportation moratorium and a halt to border wall construction.
- The Biden administration ended the "Remain in Mexico" program, which required asylum-seeking families to wait outside U.S. territory for their claims to be processed, and said it would not use Trump's pandemic health order to return unaccompanied minors to their home countries...
- Even as border stations and holding cells began to fill with new crossers, the Biden administration continued to repeal Trump-era enforcement measures.
- the Biden administration had canceled Trump-era agreements with the governments of Central America to limit access to the U.S. asylum system, and the move was widely covered in the region as the removal of another barrier.
- the Biden administration released more and more parents with children into border towns and cities. Biden officials continued to insist they were expelling the majority of the families crossing the border. It wasn't true; statistics show fewer than half were being sent back.
- Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the administration's message to asylum seekers was to stay home until the United States could restore full protections. "We are not saying, 'Don't come,' " he told reporters at the White House on March 1. "We are saying, 'Don't come now because we will be able to deliver a safe and orderly process to them as quickly as possible.' "
- As Biden officials pledged to reduce border pressures by addressing the "root causes" of migration from Central America, they worked behind the scenes to get Mexico to stiffen enforcement.
- In mid-April, Biden opted to not admit more refugees, triggering a backlash among Democrats that forced the White House to reverse course. The president then, for the first time, called the migration surge a "crisis."
"The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people, and we couldn't do two things at once," he said.
- Two days later, White House officials told CNN that Biden's statement did not reflect his administration's official position.
According to a Harvard-Harris poll taken between April 27-29, only 20% of voters believe the immigration system can handle the “current surge in illegal immigrants at the border.” The poll didn’t ask if they thought the immigration system could handle the surge and the increase in refugee admissions at once.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Sustainability Initiative for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, May 25th 2021 @ 1:55pm EDT