Posted on January 7, 2024

Biden Faces Pressure on Immigration, and Not Just From Republicans

Michael D. Shear and Miriam Jordan, New York Times, January 4, 2024

President Biden is under growing pressure to curb record numbers of migrants crossing into the United States — not just from the usual Republican critics, but also from Democratic mayors and governors in cities thousands of miles from the border.

What used to be a clear-cut, ideological fight between Democrats and Republicans has become a bipartisan demand for action, and some of the most intense pressure on Mr. Biden is coming from places like Boston, Denver, Chicago and New York, where leaders in the president’s own party are issuing cries for help.

Publicly, the Democratic politicians have described mounting crises in their cities. Privately, they are in almost daily contact with Tom Perez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and other administration officials. For the most part they are not calling for the kind of severe border restrictions that Republicans are demanding, but they want help with overflowing migrant encampments, packed shelters and busted budgets.

The intraparty pressure has turned the politics of immigration upside down at the beginning of a campaign year. And it has increased the likelihood that Mr. Biden and Democratic lawmakers will approve immigration concessions to Republicans that would have seemed improbable just a few years ago.

In Denver, more than 36,000 migrants have arrived in recent months, with 4,100 still in city shelters, and more are arriving daily. In Boston, migrants have camped out at the airport. In New York, more than 164,500 migrants have poured into shelters since April 2022, with many still living in one of the 215 hotels, converted office buildings or tent camps set up to accommodate them.

“It’s both a humanitarian and fiscal crisis,” said Mike Johnston, the Democratic mayor of Denver. “We aren’t going to sit by and watch moms and 6-month-olds in tents on the streets in 10-degree weather. But by refusing to do that we are on the path to spend $180 million next year and could not do that either.”

“As mayors we are so frustrated,” he added, noting that many of the migrants arriving in his city must wait for months before they can work legally in the United States. “This is actually a solvable problem, if we had work authorization, federal dollars and a coordinated entry plan.”

The flood of migrants into the big cities has been anything but coordinated.

Most have arrived, unannounced, on buses or planes sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who argues that cities far from the border should get a taste of the flood of migrants in his state. {snip}


Mayor Eric Adams of New York filed a lawsuit on Thursday against 17 charter bus companies seeking $708 million in compensation for transporting migrants from Texas to the city without paying “for the cost of continued care in violation of New York’s Social Services Law.” {snip}


On Capitol Hill, a solution to the problem remains elusive.

Republicans have seized the moment to insist on new, severe restrictions to asylum and other immigration policies that Democrats have resisted for years. Lawmakers in both parties say they want more funding for border security but so far have been unable to reach agreement on how much and what it would be spent on.

Caught in the middle are some of Mr. Biden’s top foreign policy priorities: military funding to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression, along with money for Israel as it conducts a war against Hamas following the terror attacks on Oct. 7. Republicans have held up both priorities as border negotiations continue.

But the pressure on Mr. Biden is clearly having an effect on the legislative negotiations. White House officials have signaled that they are open to changes that would make it harder for asylum seekers to pass an initial hurdle, known as a credible fear interview. If that happens, more of them will be returned home more quickly.

Democratic negotiators, including Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, also have appeared willing to discuss new rules that will allow more rapid deportations of migrants living illegally in the United States far from the border.