The mounting migrant problems on the United States’ southern border present increasing challenges to border states and to “sanctuary cities” across America that have been receptive to the resettlement of immigrants. It could also be one of President Joe Biden’s most serious problems as he seeks reelection this year.
Last month, border authorities encountered more than 225,000 migrants along the U.S.-Mexican border — just about the highest monthly total recorded in the last quarter century. On most days, the number of migrants crossing the border exceeded 10,000 people and overwhelmed immigration authorities. There seems to be no end to the mounting numbers seeking refuge in the United States.
The state of Texas is among the most impacted by the migrant surge. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has reacted aggressively to what he believes to be lax federal enforcement of immigration laws and the crushing economic burden that the lack of enforcement imposes on his state. Abbott has done two things to tweak his opponents and to challenge the perceived lack of federal enforcement.
First, since last year, Abbott has orchestrated the busing of more than 92,000 immigrants to “sanctuary cities” across the country, all of which are led by Democratic mayors. The targeted cities have complained about the cynical nature of the Abbott stunt — the callousness of the transfers without any assurance of meaningful assistance and security — and the crushing burden the immigrant transfers are imposing upon them. Each of the cities is struggling with the economic and administrative burden of the exported migrants and is working to develop restrictions to frustrate Abbott’s transfer efforts.
Second, Abbott recently signed Senate Bill 4 into law, giving local law enforcement the authority to arrest migrants and authorizing state judges to remove migrants from the U.S. The measure is scheduled to take effect in March. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the measure “violates the US Constitution” and risks interfering with the federal government’s ability to enforce immigration law. DOJ has threatened to file suit to enjoin enforcement of SB 4 unless Texas agrees to refrain from enforcing the law.
While all this is happening, former President Donald Trump is ramping up his demonization of immigrants with attacks on migrants as “poisoning the blood of our country.” He also claims that migrants to the southern border are largely coming from prisons and mental institutions and promises to purge migrants from America if he is reelected president.
President Biden finds himself very much on the defensive and appears ready to support many immigration restrictions he previously criticized. Although no decisions have yet been made, as part of the effort to get Congress to approve more aid for Ukraine the Biden administration appears willing to turn back migrants at the southern border without giving them a chance to seek asylum, will agree to fast-track deportation procedures to include more undocumented immigrants and to raise the “credible fear” standard for asylum seekers.
These issues will undoubtedly have a substantial impact on voter choices in the upcoming presidential race. But the pendulum is moving against immigrants.