President Joe Biden announced his intention to seek reelection in 2024 just days before his administration will put an end to Title 42 at the border, a public health measure that was invoked by the Donald Trump administration amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and permitted the expedited expulsion of migrants at the border. Title 42 has become a political battering ram that undermined asylum law.
There have been more than a few stories about the lives that have been harmed by the implementation of this measure which, instead of containing or deterring migration, has created waves of asylum seekers who, in turn, have given a new look to the social dynamics at the most-transited border in the world.
In that context, Biden’s announcement is a reminder that we find ourselves in the runup to a presidential election without having had any resolution on the issue of the elusive immigration reform. From here on out, then, it’s expected that the President will return to the promises he made four years ago, not to implement them as per his campaign speeches, but to make them a reality in his second term if he is able to keep the White House.
In fact, the Biden administration faces a litmus test in the coming weeks, to see how it will manage the anticipated migration flows that have arisen in the shadow of putting an end to Title 42. Hundreds of thousands of migrants from diverse parts of the world, but especially countries from this hemisphere like Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, and Haití, have gathered at the border in hopes of obtaining asylum in the U.S.
Over the last three years of Title 42’s implementation, horror stories from migrants who have taken and continue to take dangerous journeys to the United States, with children and even pets, facing hunger, all types of abuse, illness, accidents, and death have been the order of the day.
At the same time, diverse civil rights and pro-immigrant organizations have denounced the violation of U.S. asylum laws, while Republicans in Congress have used Title 42 as a battering ram to crush those laws. They have also used it to accuse the Biden administration of having “lost” control of the border. This rhetoric, which only responds to partisan interests, falls under its own weight when taking stock of the long history of the border and its multiple political uses to this day.
President Biden must use this moment to explain to U.S. residents that the lack of broad reform of the broken migration system is what has provoked the situation we are facing. Title 42 has simply exposed the already obvious deficiencies in our asylum laws and others that regulate the entry of workers or even relatives, as well as programs that offer temporary protection—like Temporary Protected Status (TPS)—to migrants from nations at war or dealing with disasters and other extraordinary circumstances.
In fact, under the reality that immigration reform will not be achieved at this time—with the obstructionist and anti-immigrant Republican Party controlling the House of Representatives—Biden should make use of his executive authority to advance measures that provide immigration relief to the largest group of people possible. One of those would be not only extending TPS to people who are already beneficiaries, like citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, but also extending it to migrants from these countries who arrived after the initial cut-off date, and to benefit people from other nations, like Guatemala.
This petition was formulated by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair and Vice-Chair, Reps. Nanette Barragán and Adriano Espaillat respectively, stating that “these new TPS designations can help stabilize the region by allowing families to access vital resources through remittances sent by loved ones here in the U.S.”
The immigration system is more than useless walls and cruel family separation policies, family detention, and persecution of people of faith and activists who assist migrants, which is what makes up the Republican immigration plan.
Biden must avoid ceding to Republican pressure at all costs, because to this day many of his decisions are not that different from those made by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
And it is precisely in the face of anti-immigrant pressure that Biden must lean into and implement pro-immigrant measures, with the goal of separating and differentiating himself from the racist and xenophobic cauldron that has put up an ideological wall in a nation wanting to believe the Republicans—Trump followers, mainly—and their accusations about immigrants in their absurd “replacement theory.”
Every nation has the right to control its borders, but there are humane and inhumane ways to do it. Now is the time for the president to show that there can be a balance between enforcing the law and welcoming migrants who come seeking for protections that are their human rights, in addition to identifying mechanisms to regularize the status of those who are already here and have contributed (and continue contributing) to our economy and our strength as a nation.
That is the balance that most U.S. voters want to see, as a recent survey from Global Strategy Group for the Immigration Hub and Voto Latino revealed, among voters in swing states.
For at least one electoral group that has supported Biden and the Democrats and is expecting progress on the immigration issue, the president’s actual record is not the best, especially in the runup to the elections. And the coming challenges are not simple. But Biden still has the opportunity to show that balance is possible and that the response cannot only be a series of punitive measures.