As President Joe Biden tries to undo the damage that his predecessor did to America’s immigration system, three problems are getting in the way: The nation’s existing laws are outmoded and overly restrictive, the United States hasn’t devoted the resources necessary to review individual cases, and the Biden administration has little control over when migrants will arrive at the border and seek entry.
Soon after taking office, Biden moved to dismantle Donald Trump’s nastiest immigration and border-enforcement policies. Biden has lifted Trump’s ban on travelers from certain Muslim countries; halted construction of a wasteful border wall; promised to protect enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, whom Trump was ready to deport; and launched a task force to reunite migrant families separated at the border. Yesterday, he proposed reform legislation that, if enacted, would give undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. a route to becoming citizens.
In the meantime, the U.S. border is coming under stress. Biden’s more humane policies have led to rumors that the U.S.-Mexico border is now essentially open, both for asylum seekers who show up at ports of entry and for others who cross unlawfully. Smugglers are eager to spread that idea. For the moment, the United States’ humanitarian interest lies not just in showing kindness to those who reach the border, but also in stemming the flow of people who undertake the journey in the first place.