Watch as hundreds of migrants cross the border in El Paso 0:45
A pointless discussion raged in Washington for much of this year over whether the United States' southern border is in crisis.
But now no one doubts the chaos and potential surge in immigrants that could trigger an imminent policy change next week.
The expiration Wednesday of a Trump-era order that exploited public health justifications during the pandemic to turn away thousands of migrants is expected to put major strain on an already overburdened border, immigration and asylum system.
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The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday unveiled a six-point emergency plan to address the crisis as Republicans preparing to seize control of the House of Representatives brandished the potential chaos as proof of their claims of gross negligence by the White House on the border.
Even some Democrats are warning that a large influx of immigrants next week could have multiple adverse consequences.
Critics say the administration took too long to address the issue and hasn't done enough, though they also blame Congress for failing to reform the immigration system and border enforcement for decades, a goal that polls repeatedly show the public supports.
“We have a leak,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said Thursday on “CNN This Morning.”
“We need a plumber to come and stop the leak.
And instead, what we are doing is bringing more buckets to contain the water.”
Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom told ABC News this week that the expiration of the policy known as Title 42 could strain his state's ability to deal with the situation.
"The fact is that what we have right now isn't working, and it's about to break into a post-(Title) 42 world unless we take some responsibility and ownership," he said.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco told CBS News that she was concerned about an increase in "illegal migration" and drug smuggling.
Some Democratic jurisdictions, like New York City, for example, are already struggling to cope with immigrants who have already arrived while preparing to receive more.
A pandemic-era band-aid for a broader problem
The crossing of migrants in search of the American dream increases 2:39
Title 42 was introduced at the beginning of the covid-19 emergency and allowed officials to reject certain categories of migrants.
But critics say it not only abused public health principles, especially since they have been in place for so long, but was a cruel and unfair violation of the human right to apply for asylum.
A federal judge in Louisiana blocked an earlier bid by the Biden administration to cancel the order, but a federal judge in Washington struck it down in November, ruling it "arbitrary and capricious."
Amid growing concerns that large groups of migrants waiting in Mexico could cross the border as soon as next week, Biden's team said Thursday it was increasing resources for the area, improving the efficiency of processing immigration applications, imposing consequences for illegal entry, bolstering the capacity of nonprofit organizations, targeting smugglers, and working with international partners.
But it often seemed that the White House wanted to talk about anything but the border to avoid political backlash and that the administration lacked urgency to address immigration as a whole, one of the most vexing issues for this president and his predecessors.
Republicans have demanded that Biden visit the border, though the political theater surrounding such a trip could now cloud any attempt by the president to offer clarity on a deeply complicated issue.
Still, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas said on CNN "This Morning" Wednesday that the president should go anyway.
“I don't know why they keep avoiding the border and saying that there are other things that are more important than visiting the border,” he said.
“If there is a crisis, introduce yourself.
Just introduce yourself,” Cuellar said.
And in another setback to Biden's efforts to end some of Trump's controversial immigration policies, a federal judge in Texas halted the administration's latest attempt to end the so-called "Remain in Mexico" program, which sends to certain non-Mexican citizens who entered the US by returning to Mexico, instead of detaining or releasing them on US soil, while their immigration proceedings were taking place.
The Republican Party prepares an implacable scrutiny at the border
Arizona governor puts containers with barbed wire at the border 2:34
It is well within the right of the new Republican majority to investigate the administration's failure to stem an increase in border-crossing encounters during Biden's tenure and the intensity of his immigration policy in general.
US border authorities encountered more than two million migrants in fiscal year 2022, according to Customs and Border Protection figures released in October, up from 1.7 million in 2021. Conservatives say this is proof of an "open border" which means that many more migrants pass through in a scenario that endangers national security.
Many Democrats argue that large numbers of migrants encounter border agents in multiple attempts to cross into the US after being repeatedly sent back.
But more broadly, the expiration of Title 42 is also a microcosm of a toxic immigration debate, mired in conservative media demagogy and distorted by some Republicans by a political upheaval that has made it a national and international issue. of multiple levels impossible to solve for decades.
The extreme rhetoric and chaotic hardline approach of former President Donald Trump further poisoned this issue and left the immigration system in shambles.
Some members of the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives that will take office next month seem more intent on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on a felony charge and a hitherto unspecified misdemeanor charge, in revenge for the double impeachment of Trump, than to work to find a comprehensive solution to one of the nation's worst problems.
And by sending immigrants to places like Manhattan, Washington and Martha's Vineyard, Republican governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas seem more interested in scoring points with likely Republican presidential primary voters by using immigrants as political pawns than by using immigrants as political pawns. draw attention to the burden borne by states in this crisis.
Republicans are right to highlight the epidemic of fentanyl deaths in the United States that cross the border from Mexico, often using precursor chemicals from China.
But they also spent four years pandering to Trump's obsession with a border wall that does little to stop the entry of narcotics that mostly come through border checkpoints, hidden in vehicles by drug cartels.
Another high-profile tragedy about the expiration of Title 42 has its roots in the plight of migrants fleeing crime, persecution, economic and social repression in Central and South America who make the perilous journey to the United States, often through at the mercy of ruthless human traffickers and with no sure result.
Biden assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to address the root causes of immigration from Western Hemisphere nations.
Her task is a complicated one, considering corruption, unstable states and tensions between nations like Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and El Salvador and the United States, not to mention troubled relations in recent years between Mexico and Washington.
She argued at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June that no migrant wanted to leave home, but many were forced to do so by dire conditions.
Harris has also tried to stimulate private investment to alleviate the poverty that is forcing people to flee.
But at the same time, there hasn't been much recent public evidence that her efforts are paying off or a sense that an issue carrying substantial political danger is her overwhelming priority.
El Paso, Texas will receive US$ 6 million to serve migrants 0:49
Any permanent solution to border problems would involve a huge investment in securing the border, with barriers where it makes sense but also new tracking technology and manpower where walls don't help.
It would address the plight of undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, known as Dreamers.
It would also provide a long-term path to legal status for millions more undocumented immigrants, expand asylum courts to expedite applications, and reform the legal immigration system and immigrant worker visas needed to address labor shortages economically. harmful in agriculture and catering industries, for example.
But the political tradeoffs and goodwill required for such reform challenged Congress during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
A last-ditch effort by Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who recently became an independent, that would have led to the protection of Dreamers and new measures to stop border crossings in this Congress, it just failed.
It was the latest sign that a broken Washington is unable to fix one of America's most intractable problems, a failure that repeatedly leads to situations like the one that will unfold at the border next week.