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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Biden Considers Bold Immigration Order

Hans Nichols an Stef W. Kight report at Axios that “The Senate’s bipartisan border negotiations are dead. But the  “dramatic actions that Biden is considering on the southern border – including an executive order that would restrict the ability of migrants to claim asylum — don’t require congressional approval.”

Nichols and Kight add thatThrough executive action, Biden would attempt to turn asylum seekers away at the border if they cross illegally, similar to what the Senate compromise plan contemplated, as first reported by CNN.… Trump repeatedly tried to restrict access to asylum – and is planning to do so again if he returns to the White House.”

However, Nichols and Kight note that “The actions under consideration will inflame Latino groups and the progressive wing of Biden’s party, which has expressed alarm about some of the policy changes Biden has been mulling.” But, “a White House official cautioned that a final decision has not been made on any potential executive actions.”

Camille Montoya Galvez adds at CBS News that “Mr. Biden is weighing citing a law dating back to 1952 to severely restrict access to the U.S. asylum system, which has buckled under the weight of record levels of migrant arrivals along the border with Mexico, the sources said, requesting anonymity to discuss internal government deliberations….That law, known as 212(f), allows the president to “suspend the entry” of foreigners when it is determined their arrival is not in the best interest of the country.”

Myah Ward writes at Politico that “The administration is also discussing tying that directive to a trigger — meaning that it would only come into effect after a certain number of illegal crossings took place, said the three people, who were granted anonymity to discuss private deliberations….The administration is also discussing ways to make it harder for migrants to pass the initial screening for asylum seekers, essentially raising the “credible fear standard,” as well as ways to quickly deport others who don’t meet those elevated asylum standards. Two of the people said the policy announcements could come as soon as next week ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech on March 7.”

Ward warns that “There are other complications as well. The implementation of any action from the White House would come without the finding and resources that could make implementation easier, though the administration is looking into ways to unlock additional funding. The actions would likely face legal challenges as well.”

Noting that “The Administration spent months negotiating in good faith to deliver the toughest and fairest bipartisan border security bill in decades because we need Congress to make significant policy reforms and to provide additional funding to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system,” White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández explained that “Congressional Republicans chose to put partisan politics ahead of our national security, rejected what border agents have said they need, and then gave themselves a two-week vacation,” Mary Bruce and Molly Eagle report at ABC News. However, noted Hernandez “no executive action, no matter how aggressive, can deliver the significant policy reforms and additional resources Congress can provide.”

The political value added of such immigration restrictions to President Biden’s campaign would come from the President appearing tough and decisive on immigration policy, which is emerging as a top concern of working-class voters who fear a threat to their job security if nothing is done. The political value subtracted would come from anger expressed by progressive groups which favor a less restrictive immigration policy. But it is unlikely that many supporters of a less restrictive immigration policy would vote for Trump, or even not vote, if President Biden initiates the reforms under discussion. Given the large number of working class voters – more than half of the electorate – it appears that the greater risk to Biden and the Democrats is doing nothing.

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