FO° Talks: US Immigration Policy Has Now Reached a Complete Impasse

The southern US border is being inundated with migrants as hundreds of thousands cross each month. Despite the severity of the situation, Democrats and Republicans continue to fight over a bill that has the potential to improve immigration policy. Politicians have tacit incentives to keep the issue front and center rather than solved. This has brought any movement for change to a complete standstill.

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As the US presidential election grows near, the issue of border security has become more pressing than ever before. The number of migrants coming into the US has skyrocketed from tens of thousands per month, just a few years ago, to hundreds of thousands. Customs and Border Patrol have been overwhelmed by the staggering volume of immigrants. In 2023 alone, Border Patrol apprehended nearly 250,000 people. Why so many, and why now?

United_States–Mexico_border_map
The US–Mexico border is the tenth-longest international border in the world. Via www.fmcsa.dot.gov/

Contrary to popular belief, not all of the immigrants entering the US do so illegally. Many migrants use legal immigration methods to enter the US, only to overstay their welcome as provisions time out. So the biggest question is not why so many people are crossing the borders. Rather, the big question is why current immigration policies are failing. The answer lies in the incentive for both Republicans and Democrats to keep the issue open for the parties’ own agendas.

The sudden flood proves things need to change

While it isn’t clear exactly why so many immigrants are making the journey, it is clear that elements of current immigration policy need to change. Neither President Joe Biden nor his predecessor Donald Trump seem to have made great progress in fixing the issue. Biden has fought to overturn strict Trump-era policies such as the Remain in Mexico policy and Title 42. Yet the Biden administration seems to have de facto opened the borders up wholesale, saturating the country with both legal and illegal immigrants. US cities and states are not prepared to deal with the influx.

Thus, the Republican party blames the inundated border on Biden. Yet the party, which controls the lower house of Congress, has blocked several bills and deals that could potentially change immigration policy. Why? Republicans want the issue to stay open because it gives them ammunition against the Biden administration. As long as the issue stays open, they can accuse Biden of creating chaos. At least until the coming presidential election in November of this year, the Republicans have little reason to close the show early.

The border is an issue that resonates with the voter bases of both parties. Many Democrats care deeply about immigration and want to see an administration that is welcoming to migrants and does not repeat the harsh scenes, like widespread child detention, they witnessed during the Trump years. Yet Biden is caught between pleasing his base on the one hand and the need to appear effective and in control on the other.

What’s the deal with the current deal?

One thing is clear: There is very little consensus on Capitol Hill on how to move forward. It is clear that immigration needs to change somehow, but no one has yet given the definitive answer as to how.

US immigration policy has had a long development. The 1924 Immigration Act set up a quota system for arrivals on the basis of national origin. The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act abolished this system, instead selecting immigrants on the basis of professional skills, education or family relationship to current US citizens. Immigration policies have shifted over the decades with the ever-changing political landscape. However, they now seem to have reached a state of stasis.

John McCain and Ted Kennedy collaborated on a bipartisan reform bill, the 2005 Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act. Yet it never became law. In recent decades, Democrats and Republicans alike have killed potential immigration deals. They are incentivized to keep the issue front, center, and far from conclusion. Manipulating the issue is a far better option for both parties. Today, Democrats hope to gain a larger voter base, and Republicans hope to undermine the Biden administration. The US is beginning to face the consequences of this two-party game. 

An immigration deal is currently making its way through Congress. It seems like the bill is practically gift-wrapped for Republicans. Because of the political pressure the Biden’s party is facing to act, Democrats are resigned to altering asylum and parole provisions in order to get a deal that will reduce the flow of people. Yet the bill continues to hit walls. Since the time of recording, a version of the bill died in the Senate. Yet Biden is continuing to urge Republicans to revive the legislative effort.

The stasis has generated both push and blowback on the state level. Texas in particular, along with its governor Greg Abbott, is the leading charge in state-level anger. Texas had begun busing migrants into Democrat-run cities. There is a sort of political genius in this plan. Texas has finally made the “migrant problem” an issue for the northern states that have denied the severity of the situation. Abbott declared a state of invasion, claiming that the vast number of illegal migrants has forced his hand.

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Twenty-five Republican governors signed a petition supporting his decision. A standoff in Shelby Park between Texas state militia and Border Patrol over border protection methods has put pressure on the Biden administration’s image. At time of writing, the standoff is still ongoing.

The outlook is beginning to look bleak

Republicans see this as a win-win situation. Either Biden will do something about immigration, or his government will need to punish Texas. Both choices will make the president look weak. Had he done something earlier, he would have retained some credibility. However, any “tough” stance on immigration he takes now would be a betrayal against his party and most notably against his platform. Republicans are keen on capitalizing on the issue to cripple Biden’s chances at reelection. 

Yet even if Biden does run on a tougher platform, Republicans would still have the upper hand. Trump’s strict immigration policies resonate with much of the population. To voters, it seems like he might have the answers to the border issue. But if Trump were to win, Democrats would no longer be interested in a deal. Without the fear of losing reelection pushing them to fast-forward the current bill, Democrats would begin to fight for more provisions.

In short, the US might not get a deal like the current one again. The clash over the border question will continue as long as a bill is on the table. Democrats claim dictators for the flood of immigrants. Republicans claim a weak administration. One thing is clear: There incentives and reasons why the status quo remains as it is. And as long as there are incentives, there will be stasis.

[Cheyenne Torres wrote the first draft of this piece.]

The views expressed in this article/video are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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