Biden’s new border policy won’t fix immigration, but will it help?

“The 360” shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories and debates.

What’s happening

President Biden last week unveiled a new slate of immigration policies aimed at stemming the record-setting flow of migrants crossing illegally into the United States while also opening new pathways for legal immigration from certain countries.

The core of his announcement was an expansion of immigration “parole” opportunities for asylum seekers from four nations — as many as 30,000 people per month from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti — to apply for legal status to live and work within the U.S. for up to two years, with the stipulation that they must apply from their countries to be considered. The administration is pairing this new policy with tougher rules on immigration at the border, including strict limits on asylum claims for anyone from those four countries who attempts to cross into the U.S. without authorization — who will now face expedited removal to Mexico and risk losing their right to apply for legal entry for several years.

“My message is this: If you’re trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua, or Haiti ... do not just show up at the border. Stay where you are and apply legally from there,” Biden said.

These new restrictions build on the foundation of a once-obscure public health law known as Title 42, which was put in place by the Trump administration in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Title 42 has been used by the U.S. an estimated 2.5 million times over the past three years to block migrants from having the opportunity to apply for asylum — a right that they would otherwise be granted under both U.S. and international law — in the name of preventing the virus from spreading. Biden has attempted to rescind Title 42 but has been forced to temporarily leave it in place amid an ongoing legal battle. In the meantime, the Biden administration is expanding its use of Title 42 to turn away more migrants arriving at the border by requiring them to instead apply for the new temporary parole program.

Why there’s debate

Biden conceded that these new policies will “not fix the border problem completely” but argued they are a positive step toward a system that incentivizes legal and orderly immigration while tamping down on illegal crossings.

Critics, from both ends of the political spectrum, disagree. Immigrant-rights activists and some Democrats accused Biden of doubling down on cruel policies that deny people fleeing their home countries their right to seek a better life in the U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said the decision to expand on “disastrous and inhumane” Trump-era rules represented an “affront to restoring rule of law at the border.” Many also argued that asking asylum seekers to apply from their home countries ignores the truly life-and-death circumstances many people face.

Conservatives generally say that the tougher enforcement measures in Biden’s plan aren’t remotely tough enough to secure the border and convince migrants not to make the journey to the U.S. They also argue that his efforts to look tough on immigration are largely an attempt to draw attention away from his true policy platform, which they say would dramatically increase both legal and illegal immigration.

Despite all of these critiques, Biden does have his defenders, who say the new policies provide a blueprint for a more successful immigration system that opens new pathways to come to the U.S. while clamping down on illegal entries. Others make the case that there’s very little any president could do to actually solve America’s immigration problems when Congress, where the true authority to enact reform lies, hasn’t passed any major immigration bills in decades.

What’s next

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the Biden administration's attempt to end Title 42 next month. A final decision may not be released until the summer.

Perspectives

The president’s unwillingness to face GOP attacks will only cause more suffering

“In this terrible move rightward on the issue of border enforcement, Biden has proposed solutions that seem devised more to quell Republican objections (which, let’s face it, can never be mollified) rather than to take humanitarian and legal concerns to heart and turn them into workable policy. The proposed changes are also certain to bring greater chaos, confusion, and misery to the border.” — Moustafa Bayoumi, Guardian

Biden is doing his best to manage a crisis that only Congress could solve

“It’s an imperfect fix and much less than needed — only Congress can fix a badly broken system that was last fundamentally overhauled in 1986. Yet it might be an effective means, at least in the short term, of stanching what has become an unsustainable tide fueled by human misery and ruthless traffickers.” — Editorial, Washington Post

Biden is using Title 42 as a shield to avoid making hard choices on immigration

“Had the justices called Mr. Biden’s bluff on terminating Title 42, it would have put immense pressure on the White House and Democrats to seriously engage on the immigration crisis or risk exacerbating an already untenable situation. As it is, the justices have allowed Congress and the administration to do what they do best: kick the can farther down the road.” — Editorial, Las Vegas Review-Journal

The president is abusing a parole system to cover for his own failures

“Parole was meant to be used sparingly. In most previous administrations, only a few hundred foreigners were approved each year after their applications were carefully reviewed. …

Previous presidents have abused parole, but Biden is doing it on an industrial scale.” — Simon Hankinson, Washington Examiner

The parole rules won’t help the people most in need of sanctuary

“This policy shows a lack of understanding of the nature of asylum. Those most in need of asylum are fleeing for their lives. People at risk for assassination are unlikely to survive an asylum process that sends them back into harm’s way. Asylum exists to help the most vulnerable among us.” — Alice Driver, CNN

Anything that discourages people from making the dangerous journey to the U.S. is worth pursuing

“For all the hollering from the leftist/activist side of things, President Biden's semi-clamp on the U.S.-Mexican border (and the headlines it's generating) might save many would-be immigrants from early graves. … Instead of saying things that all but encouraged that journey (which the administration has been doing for years now), last week's White House decisions might prove to turn things around.” — Editorial, Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Republican criticism is no excuse for bad decisions

“It is no secret that the Republicans are highly motivated to make the border an issue. They will continue to do so, regardless of the reality. Rather than crack down on asylum seekers to woo the votes of anti-immigrant constituencies, Biden should uphold our legal obligations and make the case for why it is the right thing to do. … Biden will be criticized either way. He might as well be criticized for doing the right thing.” — Karen Musalo, Los Angeles Times

Biden can’t fix the border on his own, but he’s using his limited power in the wrong way

“I get it. Biden needs to do something. But expanding the use of Title 42 isn’t the answer. If anything, it undermines the White House bid to end it. … The president couldn’t admit his failing any clearer. He doesn’t have any credible, practical means to control the border and still make good on his promise of humane and orderly immigration.” — Elvia Díaz, Arizona Republic

Biden is playing word games to cover up his open border agenda

“The catchphrase is creating ‘safe and orderly’ pathways to the United States. There’s a reason that that sounds a lot like Bill Clinton’s famous ‘safe, legal, and rare’ line about abortion. Just as Clinton was using a euphemism for unrestricted abortion, the administration has come up with an anodyne way to describe largely unconstrained entry into the United States.” — Editorial, National Review

The changes are too little and too late, but they’re at least a positive step forward

“With a quarreling, do-nothing Congress as a backdrop — and an unrelenting number of asylum seekers arriving every day — the Biden administration finally has taken serious steps to address unrestricted immigration.” — Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald

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Photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; photos: Isaac Guzman/AFP via Getty Images, Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Image, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images