The GOP cynicism on border policy

When Donald Trump told Republicans to kill the bipartisan immigration bill — even though its primary author was conservative GOP Senator James Lankford — many Republicans argued that the bill was unnecessary because President Biden had it within his power to fix the border by himself.

Now the president has signed an executive order that will effectively stop any intending immigrants from claiming asylum unless they have managed to arrange an appointment via the CBP One app. There are about 1,450 such appointments per day.

The president’s order comes as so-called “encounters” with the Border Patrol are down, but still in the range of 4,000 a day. That will result in a shutdown of the border until such encounters fall to 1,500 a day over a two-week period — just as we enter the summer when attempted crossings are expected to rise. Given that, the partial closure will go into effect immediately.

Former President Trump tried something similar in 2018 and the courts struck it down. U.S. law says individuals have a right to claim asylum at the U.S. border. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against Trump’s order and has indicated it will try to stop Biden’s as well. That sounds like a return to Square One.

Meanwhile, the calculus for those coming to the border remains the same. Pay a smuggler thousands of dollars to get you to the border, wait for Border Patrol agents to apprehend you, claim asylum, go through processing, and then be released into the U.S. where you wait for your hearing — which could take many years.

In the meantime, you will probably be able to work under the table. Perhaps a child will be born in the U.S. — derisively called “anchor babies” or you marry a U.S. citizen. However, if the U.S. had the resources to process asylum claims in a few months (and most claims are denied), it would not be worth it to pay so much to a smuggler.

The president’s executive order cannot conjure up the resources to increase the number of Border Patrol agents or immigration judges. Only Congress, by changing the law and appropriating resources, can try to fix the system.

There are plenty of Democrats who are unhappy with the president’s order. From their point of view, he has caved to the Republicans because of election-year politics and cast aside some Democratic priorities, such as permanent status for the so-called Dreamers, children (now adults) who were brought to the U.S. as infants or small children and know no other country except the U.S. President Obama tried to give them a path to citizenship 14 years ago, something a strong majority of Americans support.

Fourteen years ago. That should tell you all you need to know about the Congress.

President Biden might try to soften his order by allowing some undocumented individuals to work, such as the spouses of American citizens (there are about 700,000), but there is a limit to what he can do. Both the left and the right can be expected to go judge shopping and find a progressive or conservative judge to try to stop these orders, or at least tie them up for a lengthy period of time.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office has reported that the post-pandemic surge in immigration has boosted future U.S. GDP by $7 trillion and federal tax revenue by $1 trillion over what was projected just a year ago. It is because immigrants have alleviated labor shortages and boosted the economy.

The cynicism of many Republicans lawmakers on this issue is breathtaking. When Trump instructed GOP senators to block the bipartisan immigration bill he said: “Blame me.” It’s not clear voters will.

• Keith Peterson, of Lake Barrington, served 29 years as a press and cultural officer for the United States Information Agency and Department of State. He was chief editorial writer of the Daily Herald 1984-86. His new book “American Dreams: The Story of the Cyprus Fulbright Commission” is available from

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