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America’s southern border

President Joe Biden is showing firmness against irregular immigration while reversing some of the cruelest measures introduced by Donald Trump

Joe Biden on May 3 in the White House gardens.
Joe Biden on May 3 in the White House gardens.LEAH MILLIS (REUTERS)

The White House is bracing for a possible wave of irregular immigration at America’s southern border as a result of the end of an emergency measure that allowed authorities to immediately return border crossers to Mexico. The measure, called Title 42, was approved by the Trump Administration at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. With the excuse of preventing the entry of potentially infected people, the former president destroyed the asylum application system and replaced an imperfect reality with an administrative wall that has caused enormous pain on the other side of the border. The emergency measure that justified Title 42 will end on May 10, following a legal battle in which the Republicans tried to keep it in place.

From March 2020 to March 2023, Title 42 was used to justify 2.6 million forced removals, annulling traditional asylum protocols in the U.S. These are in addition to the 2.8 million deportations executed in the same period using previous immigration laws. The numbers provide an idea of the extra layer of administrative clampdown that the emergency laws implied. They are also evidence that at no time has Title 42 been effective as a deterrent to stop desperate people. It has simply provided a wall for people with legitimate asylum claims whose cases have never been heard by a judge. With the end of this policy, the border partly returns to the complicated normality prior to the Trump presidency.

President Joe Biden has decided to send 1,500 soldiers to the border on a temporary 90-day mission in anticipation that the people-trafficking mafias will encourage more crossings. The troops will not participate in security tasks, exclusive to the border police; they will only be there to provide logistical and administrative support. It is largely a decision based on image that other presidents have used in the past as well.

Irregular immigration is not a problem that can be solved; it is a reality that must be managed. Any promise to seal borders or stop the flow of people must be taken as mere xenophobic demagoguery. It’s good news that this kind of message has disappeared from Washington. The White House is now trying to expand resources to manage more petitions, as well as speed up detentions and deportations in collaboration with Mexico and Central America, in a system that will always be insufficient to cover a 1,951-mile border that hundreds of millions of men and women are willing to cross. In the difficult balance between firmness and respect for asylum rights, at least the Biden Administration seems determined to eliminate some of the unnecessary cruelty that Trump had added.

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