It’s time for Biden to lead the way out of the migrant mess at the border
President Biden’s first responsibility as commander in chief is to protect Americans in a national-security crisis, which the situation at the border has regrettably devolved into.
The number of migrants apprehended for illegally crossing the southern border reached a record high last year. While many have legitimate and legal claims to asylum, other nefarious actors are trafficking in drugs like fentanyl, which is now the leading cause of death among Americans ages 18 to 45.
The severity of the situation necessitates more federal funding immediately to secure the physical border and ensure that border patrol officers have the resources and personnel needed. Implementing a clearer process of reviewing claims that eliminates cracks in the system is also critical.
While it is Congress’ responsibility to pass laws — and legislators who for years have refused to meet in the middle on this issue are in part blameworthy for this larger problem — the president plays an instrumental role in shaping and articulating the nation’s values and parameters, and of course in protecting the public.
Lack of leadership
The lack of presidential leadership on this issue over the last two years has very likely emboldened migrants to make the perilous journey from Central and South America in order to enter the US illegally, creating a humanitarian emergency that has put Americans and migrants alike at risk.
At the same time, the federal government should provide immediate assistance as appropriate to cities like New York and others that are being pushed to the brink financially, forced to use up their limited resources to address a problem that is the federal government’s responsibility. The potential for fiscal insolvency for the New York City and state remain high.
There are likely to be thousands more migrants streaming into the city in the next few months, putting additional pressure on both jurisdictions’ strained resources. Biden has so far ignored Mayor Adams’ reasonable request for aid.
We would call on the mayors of the most heavily impacted cities, such as Adams, to build a coalition in order to secure the necessary funding from the federal government to handle the influx of migrants, and to promote an immigration policy that recognizes the evident humanitarian concerns but also puts border security first and foremost because of the specific burdens that have been placed on their overtaxed cities.
Who better to make this case than those most directly impacted?
To be sure, getting the border under control is ultimately a prerequisite for overhauling our nation’s broken immigration system and finally addressing this multifaceted crisis in a humane and responsible manner.
In addition to securing the border, a long-term reform must codify a pathway to citizenship for those who came here illegally as children but have worked hard and played by the rules and should develop a coherent approach to addressing the 11 million or so individuals — which is roughly more than 3% of the U.S. population — living here illegally.
We must also pave the way for moderate increases in legal immigration of skilled workers, which there is a clear need for, given the historically tight labor market and the looming recession we face.
The Biden administration’s new border policy — telling residents of four countries that they must apply for asylum outside the US and not come to the border — is a band-aid for a bullet wound. It is incumbent on the president to use the full resources at his disposal mitigate this crisis — only then will the US be able to truly fix our deeply and direly broken immigration system.
Douglas Schoen was a senior adviser to Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign, a White House adviser (1994-2000) and an adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 US Senate campaign. Andrew Stein, a Democrat, served as New York City Council president, 1986-94.