Immigration is a perpetual hot-button issue.
The problem, complex and entrenched, seems intractable as it persists through alternating Democratic and Republican administrations.
Often framed as a moral issue, immigration policy is expected to thread the needle between granting safe harbor to the world’s weary and tired, and the practical considerations of paying for/accommodating the influx of thousands and thousands of people.
Naturally, both mainstream political parties have used immigration as a political hammer with which to batter their opponent. Democrats, for example, used immigration to make the point that Trump was an insensitive xenophobe. Republicans, on the other hand, use immigration to suggest Biden is weak and impractical.
Since immigration is likely to be oft-discussed through the upcoming 2024 campaign, let’s consider immigration under the Biden administration.
Immigration under Joe Biden
Democrats spent four years harping against Trump’s immigration policies. So when Biden entered office he made big promises.to reform decades-old immigration laws, Trump-era restrictions, and the pathway to legal citizenship.
By 2023, “few of those ambitions have been realized and the administration presents an image of one struggling to find its footing on immigration,” Migration Policy reported. “Despite the slim Democratic majority in both houses of Congress during the president’s first two years, lawmakers remained paralyzed on immigration and did not advance the Biden agenda. Meanwhile, Republican state officials successfully used the courts to halt many of the administration’s executive efforts.”
Still, Biden has taken a proactive stance when dealing with immigration. In Biden’s first two years in office, Biden took 403 immigration related executive actions. To put that number in perspective, consider that the Trump administration issued 472 immigration related executive actions over the course of Trump’s entire four year tenure. Biden is on pace to double Trump’s rate – which is funny given that Trump was perceived as exceedingly activist on immigration.
“Ironically, this border surge may have been partly prompted by the [Biden] administration’s actions elsewhere to shield immigrants from deportation and provide humanitarian protections, as migrants expected a warm welcome in the United States after four years of Trump,” Migration Policy reported. “Biden’s ambitious immigration agenda, therefore, may have contributed to one of his most vexing policy challenges.”
A Look At the Numbers
When Biden entered office, much of the left’s immigration-related critiques were being directed at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Biden resisted calls to disband ICE, instead opting to realign the organization.
Whereas Trump used ICE to go after anyone who was in the country without authorization, Biden has used ICE to target more narrowly – specifically, “recent border crossers and migrants who present threats to national security or public safety.” The result: under Biden ICE conducted 72,100 removals in FY 2022 and just 59,000 in FY 2021, which is down significantly from Trump’s annual average of 233,000 and Obama’s annual average of 344,000 (yes, Obama had significantly more ICE removals than Trump).
Similarly, daily detentions under Biden are down; Biden’s average of 22,600 daily detentions in FY 2022 is down from a Trump-era high of 50,200 in FY 2019. But to compensate, Biden has “dramatically increased the use of ICE’s alternative to detention programs, which track noncitizens through a smartphone app or ankle monitor while their immigration case proceeds.”
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
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