President Biden has controversially expanded the COVID-era border policy known as Title 42, which allows the U.S. government to quickly expel asylum-seekers in the name of public health. The decision goes against Biden's assurances to do otherwise and has sparked strong reactions from immigration advocates and border hawks alike. Below, thought leaders from both sides lay out their critiques.
The president is 'cherry-picking' access to the U.S.
As part of the new shift, the administration will use Title 42 to expel migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela while also granting humanitarian parole to 30,000 individuals from each country per month (so long as they apply legally and through the administration's processes). But with that, Biden is essentially "cherry-picking who gets the welcome mat instead of setting up a system allowing everyone to apply for asylum, review each case, and decide on its merits," argues Elvia Díaz at The Arizona Republic. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agrees with Díaz: While he's glad the administration will expand parole access for the selected demographics, "this benefit will exclude migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability of economic means to qualify" for the new process, he wrote in an eviscerating statement.
The administration is purposely burying the lede
The parole set-up — marketed under the purpose of creating "safe and orderly" pathways into the country — is more or less a euphemism for "largely unconstrained entry into the United States," writes the editorial staff at The National Review. Much like former President Bill Clinton's famous line regarding abortion (that the procedure should be "safe, legal, and rare"), the administration is disguising its true intentions in misleading and "anodyne" messaging. In actuality, "border enforcement by redefinition … can be expected to work about as well as the current Biden approach to the border, which is to say not at all," the editors claim.
For instance, what about the migrants from designated countries who don't apply legally? Mexico says it will take 30,000 of them a month, but what happens to anyone "over and above that number?" Further, the administration has cited its "success" with a similar parole program for Venezuelans as evidence its new policy will curb migration if and when Title 42 falls. But while there "were indeed fewer apprehensions of Venezuelans" under the targeted program, "it's not clear that the Venezuelans not able to avail themselves of the legal avenue didn't just join a surge of so-called 'got aways' who came across the border and either weren't caught or didn't turn themselves into authorities." (Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the Venezuela parole program has reduced illegal crossings by 76 percent.)
All this to say — "we don't need 'safe and orderly' entry into the United States so much as 'swift and certain' removal from it," the editors argue. The president "might succeed in reclassifying a portion of the influx of illegal immigrants as something else, but that shouldn't qualify as border enforcement, sound policy, or honest accounting."
Parole is no substitute for asylum
Though expanding opportunities for parole is indeed a step in the right direction, asylum is still a vital part of the immigration reform equation, advocates argue. "Parole isn't something you can exchange for asylum because asylum was designed for people who can't wait to apply for protection from where they are but need to flee and come to the border," Refugees International's Yael Schacher told The Progressive, a social justice magazine. Further, to essentially replace asylum with parole "fundamentally misunderstands the realities and purposes of asylum, and poisons this otherwise-laudable expansion of parole," added Refugees International President Jeremy Konyndyk on Twitter.
Put plainly, "we cannot ask people to stay in place when their rights are being denied and their lives are at risk," Margaret Cargioli of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center said in a statement, per Mother Jones.
Fuel for the 2024 fire
That Biden is "finally noticing there's a problem at the U.S.-Mexico border" is surely because he plans to run for re-election, posits The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. In repeatedly blaming the GOP for the border chaos, the president made obvious that his newly announced strategy shift is "more political palliative than a solution." He claims Republicans "won't give him more money, won't negotiate in good faith," and won't consider his previously-proposed reform plans, the Journal writes — but that's just "an exercise in re-election campaign inoculation, not a genuine legislative offer." If Biden actually hoped to strike a cross-aisle deal, "he would have spared the blame-game this far out from 2024 and staked out what could be bipartisan common ground." Instead, he'll just kowtow to those on the left instead of angering them. "Why does [Biden] want a second term if he doesn't want to lead?"
He'll get flack either way, so he might as well do the 'right thing'
Law professor Karen Musalo interprets Biden's situation here as a lose-lose, at least from an optics standpoint. But if that's the case, she writes for the Los Angeles Times, "he might as well be criticized for doing the right thing" — i.e. admitting asylum-seekers at the border. At this point, Title 42 is no longer a public health measure; it's "a sop to people who oppose immigration." And "polling consistently shows strong support for protecting asylum seekers, across party lines," Musalo says. Rather than crack down on migrants for the sake of immigration hardliners, Biden should see this as an opportunity to "change course, to uphold our national ideals, and to be an example to other nations around the world."