All of this is fodder for Republicans, who have made immigration a go-to issue, a cudgel deployed daily by any prospective presidential candidate worth his MAGA hat.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has accused the Biden administration of letting migrants with Covid-19 slip through the system and make their way to Florida, a largely unsubstantiated charge. And Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who has promised to continue to build Trump’s border wall on his own, accused Mr. Biden of planning a “catch and release” policy toward migrants.
Fair or not, the attacks seem to be having their intended effect. A poll conducted in June by The Washington Post and ABC News showed just 33 percent of respondents approved of the president’s job on immigration, while 51 percent disapproved.
So yeah, it’s a mess.
Mr. Biden’s supporters say he is doing the best he can with a terrible hand, and that behind the scenes, the president has been moving fast. According to Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, he has taken 155 actions on immigration — half of them rescinding actions by the previous administration — compared with the 450 Trump took over his entire term. Last month the White House released a blueprint promising a “transformative vision” for immigration reform, including redirecting resources from building Trump’s wall to processing migrants and streamlining asylum applications.
“It’s the most bold immigration agenda from any president in a long time,” Mr. Chishti said.
But all that will take time, and so the administration is asking for patience from both migrants and immigration advocates.
“We are also — and critically — sending a message that now is not the time to come to the border,” Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in March. “Do not take the journey now. Give us time to build an orderly, safe way to arrive in the United States and make the claims that the law permits you to make.”
Implicit in that message, of course, is the fact that the administration is focused on other issues right now — Covid, infrastructure, the spending package. And precisely because immigration is a hot-button topic, they argue, it’s better to make changes quietly and incrementally. Rescinding Title 42 just isn’t in the president’s playbook right now.