Talking Points

Biden is repeating Bush and Obama's immigration mistake

President Biden's decision to deport the Haitian migrants surging over America's southern border is needlessly cruel. It's also not what he promised to do.

Biden campaigned pledging to create a "fair and humane" immigration system that would "preserve the dignity of immigrant families, refugees, and asylum-seekers." Instead, he'll send desperate Haitians back to their home country, despite it being wracked by political violence and still reeling from a devastating earthquake.

Some have argued these deportations are necessary for reform efforts to succeed. "I am extremely pro-immigration," writer Matthew Yglesias tweeted Saturday, "but I don't think you create a durable pro-immigration politics by stigmatizing all efforts to enforce immigration law." Josh Barro, an Insider columnist, agreed. "In fact, demonstrating that we can enforce the rules we make is essential to convincing people to agree to more permissive rules," he wrote.

That's probably not true. Would-be reformers have already tried and failed to build support for their agendas through immigration crackdowns. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both sent National Guard troops to the border. Bush also wanted to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants, while Obama hoped to give "DREAMers" a permanent status in this country. In each case, immigration hawks in Congress blocked the reform despite the crackdown. Given the recent conservative outcry against refugees from Afghanistan, there isn't much reason to think Biden's crackdown will end differently.

Reform would be popular, however. Polls have long demonstrated Americans have a generally favorable view of immigration, and support for more immigration has actually increased in recent decades. In 2007 and again in 2013, there were Senate majorities backing dramatic reform bills. A filibuster killed the first effort; House Republicans the second. Immigration opponents may not be a majority, but they are effective at digging in their heels: They egged on former President Donald Trump's unpopular decision to shut down the government in late 2018 because Congress wouldn't fund his proposed border wall. They'll be equally obstinate with Biden.

So, no, this new round of deportations likely won't usher in more "permissive rules." It won't give us fairer or more humane immigration policy. It will only add to human misery.