President Joe Biden is in a tricky, potentially dangerous political situation as a result of the current rise in migrants crossing the US-Mexico border.
Democratic state and local leaders, who ought to be among his closest allies going into the 2016 presidential election, have fiercely criticized his approach to immigration. Donald Trump, his likely Republican opponent in 2024, is stepping up his criticism of a subject that has been a key component of his political platform for almost ten years. Furthermore, the public’s support for Mr. Biden in this matter is waning.
The growing immigration crisis, which is being felt thousands of miles from the US-Mexico border in part because Republican governors have been sending newly arrived migrants to Democratic-run cities, could be a formidable political drag on Mr. Biden’s popularity and his reelection hopes even though the election is still more than a year away.
The data shows a bleak picture. Preliminary data from the US Department of Homeland Security, obtained by BBC partner CBS News, indicates that the US Border Patrol detained over 210,000 unauthorized immigrants trying to enter the country in September. That number is the highest of the year and is nearly equal to the peak monthly apprehensions record set in late 2022.
The recent spike should erase any illusion that the Biden administration had, following adjustments to government policy earlier this year, that the border crisis was abating and the national emphasis was shifting to other matters.
Additionally, the nature of the immigration influx raises the possibility that there is no end in sight. Venezuelan nationals made up around a fifth of those apprehended at the border last month. Under Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime, Venezuela has been going through political and economic difficulties.
More than seven million people have fled Venezuela, sparking a hemispheric refugee crisis, and the effects are now being felt on US land.
According to the Panamanian authorities, more than 150,000 Venezuelans have crossed the Darian Gap into Central America in the previous two months on their way north toward the US.
People don’t just up and leave their homes, Janet Napolitano, the former head of homeland security under President Obama, told the BBC. “They’re usually in desperate straits – poverty, joblessness, high crime, violence, lack of civil institutions in their countries of origin.”
The Biden administration unveiled two new measures on Thursday to handle the sharp spike, and both have exposed the president to criticism from all sides of the political aisle. The president released cash to construct further sections of wall along the US-Mexico border as well as a number of environmental and planning waivers.
Additionally, he stated that direct deportations of Venezuelan citizens have been delayed by the US due to tense diplomatic relations between the two countries.
These new policies were swiftly criticized as being excessive by left-wing immigration advocates and insufficient by immigration hardliners. The problem was made worse by the president’s hazy justifications, according to which he still thinks walls don’t work and that he was compelled by Congress to spend the money.
The administration’s declaration about Venezuela also reflects a shift in philosophy after actions last month that allowed roughly 500,000 Venezuelan refugees living in the US to apply for work permits and postpone deportation for 18 months.
He appears to be satisfying no one by attempting to allay worries that he is not doing enough to confront the border surge while still keeping his liberal supporters happy, a dilemma that has regularly played out on border policy throughout the years.
Due in large part to Mr. Trump’s “build the wall” rhetoric and occasionally harsh measures during his presidency, immigration has become a very divisive topic. Because of this, Mr. Biden’s political pliability in handling the crises has been severely limited.
While President Barack Obama was able to boost deportations and tighten border security without suffering negative backlash from leftist activists, Vice President Joe Biden does not have this luxury. Currently, every action he does in regards to immigration is seen in the context of the partisan political trench warfare that is taking place, with Mr. Trump and the Republicans on one side and the Democrats on the other.
Meanwhile, recent polling indicates that the public is going against the president in that heated debate.
In a recent Marquette University poll of registered voters, participants were asked to rank the two presidents according to how “better” they were on the subject of immigration and border security. Only 28% of respondents chose Mr. Biden, compared to 52% who said they favored Mr. Trump.
In contrast to issues like abortion and climate change, where Mr. Biden has strong leads, that is tied with the economy for the biggest issue disparity between the two candidates.
An NBC News poll that revealed 45% of Americans thought Republicans were better at handling immigration than 27% for Democrats found similar results. It is a notable improvement over the Trump administration, when majorities of Americans supported the Democrats.
Public opinion is being significantly impacted by the constant stream of unsettling news from the border as well as the burden on public services experienced by the main US cities where the migrants are settling.
Additionally, the president will face his Republican opponent on unfavorable political ground if the crisis does not abate before the 2024 general election campaign gets underway.
The Biden team will need to make a deliberate effort to resolve the immigration situation, according to Ms. Napolitano.
She claims that diplomatic outreach is necessary. “Investments must be made in other nations so that we can lessen the motivation to emigrate. Additionally, it necessitates a solid border security system and the effective execution of our immigration laws, which demand reform and amendment.
In the end, whether or not the new policies are successful will matter much more than how Mr. Biden is criticized for his immigration-related activities this week. If they don’t, and if other attempts by the Biden administration to stop the influx of migrants from Venezuela and other countries are likewise fail, his chances of winning re-election become more bleak.