In 2020, the Biden Administration campaigned in part upon the proponent of solving the immigration crisis, and among other promises vowed to end construction of the border wall once and for all. Yet Biden’s recent action enforcing the Southwest border has voided this oral contract. On the evening of October 4, President Joe Biden waived 26 federal laws in order to resume construction of the Trump-era U.S. border wall, reversing previous Democrat actions and raising alarm and criticism from the left and right alike.
Biden’s decision marks the culmination of 60 years of polarized border policies and varying efforts to address the immigration crisis. Due to a myriad of struggles faced by Central America ranging from political instability to climate disasters, the Northern Triangle experienced a surge of emigration throughout the 20th century. In the 1970’s, politicians across the aisle worked to curb the rising influx of immigrants across the Southwest border. Implementing policy solutions from border control to deportation, Congress was viewed by many as “draconian,” posing short-term fixes to a long-term issue.
It was not until 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signed a sweeping reform bill into law, that the United States took concrete action to address undocumented immigrants considering the rising numbers at the border. A cornerstone of immigration legislation, the Immigration Reform and Control Act not only tightened border restrictions and homeland security, but granted amnesty to nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants currently residing within the states.
In the years since, immigration overhaul has been led by both the right and left under President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, and further action was taken in the forms of border control, deportation, and a reformation of the courts by both President Donald Trump and now President Joe Biden. But streamlining along the lines of the dubbed “Reagan Amnesty” is a far-off dream in our current world of political disunity and the still skyrocketing influxion at the Southwest border.
After President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, one of his administration’s core issues was the immigration crisis. That March, Biden handed off the issue to Vice President Kamala Harris, remarking, “I can think of no person who is better qualified to do this,” to White House reporters. A senior administration official to the Vice President informed reporters of a two-pronged plan of action in both stunting the influx at the Southwest border and addressing corruption and poverty in the Northern Triangle. But in the years since, it seems the Biden Administration has failed to execute lofty campaign promises. Even after reversing Title 42, a Trump-era coronavirus policy capping migrant numbers, data has shown that the Biden Administration has still stranded tens of thousands of individuals in tenting grounds along the U.S.-Mexico border, deported 50,000 undocumented immigrants, seen an almost 40% drop in amnesty applications, and a spike in I.C.E. detainment and time spent in Border Patrol Facilities.
On October 4, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security posted an announcement on the U.S. Federal Registry addressing their resumed construction on the U.S. border wall, remarking on the determination pursuant to Section 102 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Namely outlining an observed “high illegal entry” along Starr County, Texas, the post emphasized a need for reciprocal action. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas defended the move, stating, “it is necessary to waive certain laws, regulations, and other legal requirements in order to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads,” in line with the filing posted on the registry. A new surge of immigrants arriving at the Southwest border has largely caused this push by the administration. Between last October and August, Border Patrol noted almost 300,000 encounters along the border, and apprehended over 200,000 migrants this last month alone.
Already this action has seen disdain across the aisle, with former President Donald Trump rebuking, “I will await his apology!” in a Truth Social post referencing President Biden the following day, and Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar condemning the policy shift, “A border wall is a 14th-century solution to a 21st-century problem.” “This decision is not in line with the current Administration’s commitments to end border wall construction,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Nanette Díaz Barragán on behalf of the CHC, calling the move, “disappointing.” The president also faces criticism from prominent advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, who termed the decision “a profound failure.”
This coming week, Mayorkas, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland and White House Homeland Security adviser Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall are expected to meet in Mexico City counterpart to Mexican government officials for annual security talks; an already expected topic of discussion is the rising migration across the border and recent U.S. shifts in policy execution. Further discussion with Mexico over the Southwest border will remain regular with U.S. senior administration officials, including promises to expand enforcement.
Sophia Berg is from Gilbert, Arizona, studying English.