Ruben Navarrette: Biden promised a more humane immigration policy. We're still waiting.
From the commentary: Immigration rights advocates are furious that Biden has weaseled out of the pro-immigration stance he adopted to get elected.
SAN DIEGO — Too many politicians have it in their nature to lie, manipulate and disappoint.
As the consummate politician, President Joe Biden is exceptionally skilled at all three. This is especially true when he finds himself under pressure and dealing with tough issues that cause elected officials to make enemies. Like most politicians, Biden is probably terrified that — if he loses too much support — he could wind up having to make a living in that scariest of places: the private sector.
For Biden, that might as well be another planet. The 79-year-old has been cashing government payroll checks nearly nonstop since he was sworn in, at 28, to fill a seat in Delaware on the New Castle County Council in 1970. If there is one thing Biden knows how to do, it's how to make a promise that convinces folks to vote for him, then weasel out of the commitment. That's Political Survival 101.
Like former president Barack Obama — whom he served as vice president for eight years, learning the tricks of the trade — Biden survives the buzzsaw of the immigration debate by playing both sides. He says whatever he needs to say to placate the left, but he has found a lot to love in the atrocious and racist immigration policies advanced by former president Donald Trump.
During the 2020 campaign, Biden repeatedly told pro-immigration groups that he would stop construction of what Trump liked to call his "big, beautiful wall" on the U.S.-Mexico border. In August 2020, while speaking virtually to Latino and African American journalists, Biden pledged that — if elected — his administration would not build "another foot of wall" on the border. He also said that, while he would make sure the border was protected, his approach would be to rely on "high-tech capacity" methods to protect it.
However, the Biden administration has now quietly given the green light to completing a portion of that same wall. In late May, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would replace a "deteriorated barrier" located near the cross-border Friendship Park in Imperial Beach, south of San Diego. The administration claims that the barrier, in its current condition, poses "safety risks to Border Patrol agents, community members, and migrants."
This isn't the first time that Biden has embraced Trump's immigration policies — the same ones that he criticized during the 2020 campaign. You see why so many Americans hate politics?
Biden promised to end the government's invoking of Title 42, a section of the U.S. Code put there by the Public Health Service Act of 1944 to prevent the spread of communicable diseases in the United States by keeping out foreigners. Trump used the code to exclude people from Latin America, and Biden promised to end that practice. Instead, he continued it.
It appears that Biden tried to keep his promise to end Trump's Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy. But the federal courts thwarted these efforts and ordered the White House to continue the policy. And when it started the program up again, the Biden administration did something sneaky: It folded Haitian refugees into the mix and sent them to Mexico too. So the courts ordered the administration to restart the program, and the administration responded by expanding it beyond Mexicans and Central Americans. Now the Supreme Court has overruled the lower courts, and given the administration permission to once again admit immigrants and asylum seekers.
As if. You think the administration wants more footage on the evening news of the "huddled masses" crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, especially in an election year? No way, Jose.
Attention pro-immigration liberal Democrats who thought Biden would be a "kinder and gentler" alternative to Trump: You've been bamboozled. On this issue, the two men are pretty much the same guy.
Immigration rights advocates are furious that Biden has weaseled out of the pro-immigration stance he adopted to get elected.
Good. They should be outraged. But they shouldn't be surprised. For the record, I was never fooled by this particular weasel.
In December 2020, just one more month after he was elected president, I wrote an essay that began:
"(Joe) Biden insists that, with a new sheriff in town, things are going to change. But he still has to convince Congress, and navigate the politics of the immigration debate.
Put me down as skeptical. Biden makes it all sound so simple, but both his track record and the delicate position he's in suggest that he's likely to fall short."
And fall short he has.
Ruben Navarrette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group
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