America’s pandemic-era border restriction policy known as “Title 42” expired on Thursday. In the name of pandemic prevention, this policy, implemented by the Donald Trump administration, allowed law enforcement officers to quickly clear out illegal immigrants at the border. In recent days, the country has been experiencing a new surge in immigration, with several South Texas counties issuing disaster declarations. Clearly, the United States today finds itself in the midst of two major crises: the federal government’s debt ceiling and its ability to manage the flow of immigrants.
There is no doubt that the United States of America is a country full of immigrants. However, the issue of immigration has long been a tool of bipartisan divide. The current President of the United States, Joe Biden, promised immigration reform during the presidential campaign, but today that aspiration has become “empty words”. It is clear that Biden’s immigration policy is still essentially a continuation of the Trump era, and it continues to falter. As a result, the current immigration problem in the United States looks complex.
First, the immigration problem has grown exponentially in recent years with far-reaching consequences. The number of undocumented immigrant crossings at the US-Mexico border is set to top 2.76 million for fiscal year 2022, compared to 1.72 million in 2021, the previous year’s high. The influx of illegal immigrants has overwhelmed border states such as Texas and Florida, but Democrats have pushed for looser immigration policy, arguing that even the massive influx of immigrants has some benefits. Against this backdrop, the demographics of Texas are changing, with the largest “Red State” (Republican) soon witnessing a political shift to become the “Blue State” (Democratic).
Second, the dispute and rift between the two US parties on immigration issues has also given rise to new immigration problems in the country. Some Republican governors have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party and the Biden administration, claiming that the current administration’s lax immigration policy has led to an immigration crisis at the border. They are using buses and planes to move illegal immigrants and refugees from their states to northern areas where Democrats govern. Those immigrants can be described as “political tools in America’s bipartisan struggle.”
Third, there is a huge gap between the number of refugees admitted and resettled. The pushback in US policy on this specific issue has increased the influx of illegal immigrants. While it allocated 125,000 refugee places in fiscal year 2022, the Biden administration resettled just under 26,000 refugees. The gap between planning and actual implementation has created a huge psychological gap for refugees hoping to enter the country, increasing instability at the border.
With Title 42 expiring and the 2024 election approaching, immigration will inevitably again become the victim of a bipartisan fight. On Thursday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the Border Security Act of 2023, which proposes to build more walls along the US-Mexico border and impose new restrictions on asylum seekers. However, the bill is likely to be “dead on arrival” in the Democratic-controlled Senate, CNN reported.
Overall, the rise in illegal immigration is drawing fierce bipartisan attacks. The GOP border security bill has become a new “starting point” for bipartisan talks on immigration reform, but given past behaviors on both sides, don’t expect much from the next set of talks. The current chaos at the US border could continue due to bipartisan fighting.
The crux of the US immigration issue is balancing humanitarian, public health and national interests as well as how the United States, Mexico and other Central American countries cooperate to control the flow of migrants. As for the solution, developing a legal, fair, and sustainable immigration policy may require extensive dialogue and consultation between the US government and all segments of society.
Even now, both sides act with indifference to migrant children dying in shelters and willfully ignore the root causes of illegal immigration.
The current chaotic situation with illegal immigration has its “roots” in the poverty and violence that the United States has historically sown in Latin America.