Bipartisan shift on immigration a key win for Biden

For three years, the Biden administration has engaged in denial, blame-shifting and half-truths before conceding the southern border at Mexico is in crisis. The change in attitude burst into the open earlier last month when the president said “significant compromises on the border” would be considered by the White House to stem the unprecedented flood of illegal immigration into the United States.

The president’s remarks changed the dynamics of the debate but infuriated the party’s progressive left wing, which accused the administration of caving in to Republican demands and returning to Trump-era restrictive policies – denial of asylum claims, arrests and deportations – the president himself repealed.

The American people would be encouraged if they believed the change represented an epiphany, an awakening in the administration that its refusal to act exacerbated the financial and humanitarian crisis that has befallen communities along the southwestern border and a number of major American cities.

It didn’t.

The administration’s hand was forced by a major dose of power politics, an “I’ll-give-you-what-you-want-if-you-give-me-what-I-want” accommodation usually referred to in more polite terms as bipartisan compromise.

The deal would grant the administration’s request for $100 billion in aid to Ukraine to continue its war against Russia and to Israel in its war with Hamas in return for significant changes in immigration policy.

Republican demands that border security measures be included in the aid package placed the issue in the hands of a bipartisan group of senators to develop a consensus that could win approval in Congress and the White House.

The administration desperately needs the legislative victory represented by aid for Ukraine and Israel and, while willing to accept more- stringent border security measures, has recognized it must shed the perception that it is responsible for an open border and the record influx of migrants into the country.

Mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, San Francisco and Denver have taken their grievances public, demanding millions in federal aid to deal with the rising migrant population.

They face cutting their education and police budgets, for instance, to provide funding for services to migrants. The mayors have come under severe criticism from residents and taxpayers who claim their needs are being ignored in favor of individuals here illegally.

The administration has bungled the issue since the outset. Its insistence that the border was secure was undermined by news accounts and images of border crossings in record numbers and migrants put up in hotels, police stations and airports.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre clung stubbornly to an everything is under control narrative. Despite mountains of evidence, Jean Pierre attempted to shift the blame to former president Trump and congressional Republicans. She has consistently been on the defensive, scrambling for explanations and excuses while her credibility crumbled.

Republican demands for including border security measures in the aid package smacks of legislative hostage-taking, but also offers the administration a path toward recovering some level of credibility to its avoidable immigration position.

The administration would have been much better off had it recognized and responded to the warning signs at the border, rather than allowing ideological pressures and a desire to draw sharp contrast with Trump to dictate policy. Choosing to allow the issue to fester and produce an election-jeopardizing political headache was a badly misguided and amateurish decision.

As distasteful as it may be to the administration, accepting the recommendations of the bipartisan Congressional committee offers an opportunity to demonstrate they really do understand the severity of the problem.

How far the progressive left is prepared to go to tank the effort remains to be seen. Dealing with them will require direct involvement of the president.

Not only is addressing immigration at risk, but the potential for failing to aid Ukraine and Israel would seriously weaken a politically vulnerable president as he heads into his re-election bid.

The blame, though, lies squarely with the administration. It continued to paint itself into a corner on immigration and, rather than attempt to extricate itself undamaged, chose to send out for more paint.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.