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Poll: Voters Favor Biden’s Border Strategy — Including Republicans

A new poll has found that a majority of Republican voters support the Biden administration's approach of addressing the root causes of immigration to the United States even as GOP lawmakers have repeatedly attacked the president for it.

A Civiqs/Immigration Hub poll, which surveyed just over 3,000 voters from April 15-20, revealed that 85% of Americans believe the U.S. government should work more closely with other countries to reduce immigration before it starts.

Among Republicans, that number was even higher, at 87%.

Among Democrats, 86% said the United States needed to work with foreign nations to address the root causes of immigration; 81% of independents said the same.

"After four years of harsh, inhumane immigration tactics aimed at deterring people from coming to America, we now see a public and a president intent on taking a new approach," Immigration Hub executive director Sergio Gonzales said in a statement on Thursday. "In particular, as Vice President Harris continues to roll out new initiatives and achievements in addressing the root causes of migration with our neighbors to the south, voters strongly support the need for this type of regional leadership. They understand that migration at our border is driven by desperate circumstances such as extreme hunger and violence."

In March, President Joe Biden tasked Vice President Kamala Harris to look into the primary reasons that prompt immigrants to flee their home counties, in particular the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in Central America, where gang violence and poverty are rampant.

On April 27, the vice president held a virtual roundtable with Guatemalan community-based organizations to help her identify the communities that need support the most.

"I know that there are acute factors," she said. "The acute factors that I think of are the catastrophes that are causing people to leave right now: the hurricanes, the pandemic, the drought, extreme food insecurity. And then I believe there are the longstanding issues, what we call the 'root causes': corruption, violence, and poverty, and, of course, the lack of economic opportunity and the lack of not only climate mitigation, but climate adaptation and the lack of good governance."

Harris noted that she would visit Guatemala in June.

On April 26, the vice president hosted Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei for a virtual bilateral meeting to discuss ways the two nations could cooperate on issues surrounding immigration.

"They agreed on the importance of prosperity, good governance, and anti-corruption measures to protect all members of society and to build a foundation of hope for a better future," Harris' spokeswoman Symone Sanders said in a statement. "In light of the dire situation and acute suffering faced by millions of people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Vice President Harris announced an additional $310 million in U.S. government support for humanitarian relief and to address food insecurity."

Harris also spoke over the phone on April 7 with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador about collaborating on similar issues. She is scheduledto speak with him again on May 7 about his tree-planting immigration proposal in Central America.

Despite those efforts, Republicans have blamed Biden for stoking a so-called "crisis" at the southern border, suggesting he himself is the "root cause" of immigration from Central America due to his various policies on the matter.

"I'm getting sick & tired of hearing this 'root causes' gibberish coming from the White House. If they traveled to the border they'd know before even landing that the root cause is THEM," Rep. Byron Donalds tweeted on Thursday.

Moreover, GOP lawmakers have refused to accept that Harris is not directly in charge of issues at the border itself, repeatedly attacking her even though the Biden administration has clarified her actual role numerous times.

"Why hasn't our 'Border Czar' Kamala Harris visited the border? Why won't Biden mention that? We need to keep our country safe and secure. This administration is NOT up to the task," Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson, the former Trump administration White House physician accused of misconduct, tweetedon Thursday.

As White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted in a March 29 briefing, "The Vice-President of the United States will be helping lead that effort [to address] the root causes, not the border. There's some confusion over that."

"The Northern Triangle, which I'm sure you're aware of, is not the same as the border," she reiterated later, in an April press briefing.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Behind The Latest ‘Border Crisis’

The frightening story of a "crisis" at the U.S. border with Mexico, with an "overwhelming surge" of destitute and possibly disease-bearing humans, is now repeated constantly by Republicans and their eager echoes in the mainstream media. But what interest beyond partisanship is served by that narrative? What would serve us all far better is to understand the background of these events so that panic and prejudice don't distort our response.

On Thursday evening, President Joe Biden provided sorely needed context to the latest "border crisis" when asked whether the latest increase in migration is due to his kindly image — and his reversal of the cruelest immigration policies of his predecessor.

"I guess I should be flattered that people are coming because I'm a nice guy," Biden said, without quite laughing. Noting that a roughly similar "surge" occurred at the border during the winter of 2019, he asked acidly, "Does anyone suggest there was a 31 percent increase under Trump because he was a nice guy?"

Nobody is suggesting that, although the Trump partisans complaining about Biden's border policies are trying their demagogic best to hide the truth about what happened then and what is happening now. The Republican impulse to stoke bigotry for political gain is as predictable as the annual pilgrimage of migrants fleeing violence and privation.

Writing in The Washington Post on the day of Biden's press conference, a trio of academic researchers — Tom K. Wong, Gabriel De Roche and Jesus Rojas Venzor — laid out the evidence that the recent increases are seasonal, not political, based on data published by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Their analysis showed that the rising number of migrants arriving at the border during the first five months of fiscal year 2021 closely matched the trend for the same months in fiscal year 2019. The difference was the number of migrants who didn't show up or were turned back in fiscal 2020 and are coming now.

After looking at not only those recent numbers but data for every year dating back to 2012, they "found no clear evidence that the overall increase in border crossings in 2021 can be attributed to Biden administration policies." Instead, they discovered that these migrations are seasonal, owing to the simple fact that as winter turns into spring and summer, the southern deserts are simply too hot and deadly for humans to cross on foot.

If the bulge in migration is so predictable, then the next question is why the Biden administration was unprepared to handle it. And the apparent answer is that it tried but its efforts were thwarted by Trump and his pathetic refusal to recognize his election defeat.

When the Trump White House and its minions across the government declined to cooperate with the Biden transition teams, many predicted that the costs of that irresponsible attitude would eventually come due. And now we're seeing the human cost every day, as unaccompanied children look to cross the border and seek asylum in a country unprepared to receive them.

As NBC News reported on March 24, Biden aides warned their counterparts in Trump's Department of Health and Human Services — which is responsible for migrant children — that many children would be coming to the border shortly and that the facilities to shelter them were insufficient. The Biden team, experienced and competent, sent that message to the Trump officials as early as December. Not only did they anticipate the arrival of Central American kids but they knew that Trump had closed down shelter space as part of his no-tolerance, family-separation approach to immigration.

It was a disastrous mistake. And what made matters far worse was that Trump's HHS officials simply ignored the warnings and did nothing until time ran out. They also brushed off the concerns of nonpartisan HHS staff, who issued the same warnings internally. According to one official who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, "It was irresponsible of the Trump administration not to listen to us when we were throwing up red flags."

Now the Biden administration has to clean up their mess, including their absolute failure to address the underlying causes of migration. They are trying to improve the bad situation at the border as rapidly as possible, and they will need to fashion more effective policies going forward.

But there's at least one thing they know for sure: Trump's cruel attitude toward immigrants accomplished nothing, except to bring misery to innocent families and dishonor to the United States.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

How Trump Created The ‘Border Crisis’ — And How Biden Can Fix It

In 2014, the Obama administration was faced with a surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America showing up at our border and seeking asylum. In an effort to reduce the number of kids trekking across Mexico, it created a program to let them apply for asylum in their home countries. Some 13,000 did, helping to ease the rush.

You can guess what happened next. Donald Trump became president and acted on his twin beliefs: anything that Barack Obama did was bad, and anything that helped foreigners was worse. He killed the program, and soon the number of Central American kids crossing over began to grow. By the spring of 2019, his administration was faced with its very own crisis at the border.

His Department of Homeland Security responded with harsh measures — separating children from parents in large numbers, expelling children from Central America into Mexico and forcing asylum seekers to remain for months in Mexico in squalid camps.

Today, we see another tide of Central Americans coming north, and Republicans blame President Joe Biden for enticing them. They refer to it as "Biden's border crisis," as though it suddenly exploded on January 20.

In fact, it emerged when the White House was just a gleam in Biden's eye. The increase began last spring and built steadily over the remainder of Trump's presidency. From May to October, the number of "southwest land border encounters" recorded by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol nearly tripled. In truth, it was dire conditions in their home countries that drove the migrants.

Republicans claim they were emboldened by Biden's plan to stop work on Trump's border wall — the one Mexico was supposed to pay for. That theory is implausible, because Trump added only 47 miles of barriers in places that didn't have them before.

"Only a few miles were built in South Texas, the area most prone to illegal crossings," The New York Times recently reported. "Instead, much of the construction, especially in the Trump administration's closing days, has taken place in remote parts of Arizona where crossings in recent years have been relatively uncommon."

If Biden deserves any responsibility for the recent surge, it's not because of what he did wrong but because of what he did right. Trump's fondness for systematic cruelty may have discouraged some Central Americans. But the cruelty was impossible to justify, even for an ostensibly good purpose.

Under Trump's zero tolerance policy, thousands of children were taken from their parents when the families crossed the border to exercise their right to seek political asylum. Most of the parents were sent back to their home countries. Some of the kids spent weeks sleeping on the floor in chain-link cages. Last fall, we learned the horrifying truth that the Trump administration had lost track of the parents of 545 children, making it impossible to reunite the families.

The brutality was a design feature. Trump's White House Chief of Staff John Kelly boasted that "a big name of the game is deterrence." But sometimes deterrence asks too much.

There are alternative remedies, such as letting more foreigners in through authorized channels. But Trump was against immigration of any sort. His administration virtually eliminated admissions for refugees, and last year, it slashed the number of green cards for legal permanent residents.

Today, the worldwide backlog of applications for green cards is at five million. Many recipients have to wait ten years or more to be admitted. Cato Institute analysts David Bier and Alex Nowrasteh reach this startling conclusion: "At no time in American history has immigration been as legally restricted as it is currently."

For the moment, the Biden administration has the task of coping with the border crisis while dismantling the inhumane practices of its predecessor. In the longer term, it could relieve pressure on the border by increasing refugee admissions and allotting more slots to the Central American countries that have produced so many migrants.

It could create a program for guest workers from Mexico and Central America, as proposed by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Biden has already moved to restore the Central American Minors Program to provide "a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the risks incurred in the attempt to migrate to the United States irregularly."

Giving people an avenue to come here legally in order to keep them from coming illegally? A crazy idea, but it just might work.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

To Reform Immigration, Biden Must Show Resolve At The Border

Undocumented immigrants have been surging to the U.S. border, some wearing T-shirts with the Biden campaign logo and the words "Please let us in!" What gave them the idea that they could just show up and come on in? President Joe Biden did.

Oh, Biden didn't exactly say that. He said to not come now, as we rebuild the immigration system. But that isn't the same as saying they can't come illegally later. And since it implies that later on, whoever wants to come can, the migrants can reasonably assume that an arrival now without papers will eventually be overlooked.

Adding to that impression, Biden made a show on his first day in office of ditching five of the Trump administration's immigration policies. Sure enough, human smugglers began telling desperate Central Americans that Biden opened the door and the smugglers will get them through it for $6,000.

What did Biden think would happen? Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection warned the incoming administration of building pressure at the southern border. Fed by worsening poverty and gang violence in Central America and an improving U.S. economy, the rush had already begun in Donald Trump's last months.

It took until this weekend for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to firmly say the border of the United States "is closed." Roberta Jacobson, White House coordinator for the southern border, got still more specific. "The message isn't 'Don't come now,'" she said. "It's 'Don't come in this way, ever.'"

The earlier sloppy rhetoric handed Republicans a political bomb they are throwing at Democrats. Not that they've entirely earned the right. Trump's card trick was to hurl insults at undocumented immigrants while looking the other way when American businesses employed them as low-cost labor.

When Trump was asked whether he supported a national requirement to use E-Verify — a database that would confirm a new hire's right to work in this country — he said no. Asked why not, he used the bull argument that farmers don't have computers. Turning off the job magnet is the only way to cut the flow of illegal workers.

That is also missing from Biden's proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. He would confer legal status to most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. He would offer $4 billion in aid aimed at making life in some Central American countries less terrible. And he would reform the U.S. refugee and asylum systems. All good things.

But a plan that doesn't seriously stop Americans from employing people who entered illegally or overstayed their visas is not going to secure the border. Not any more than Trump's dramatics over a border wall.

Politicians of both parties should know where the public stands on these matters. A Gallup poll last summer found that for the first time, Americans want more, not less, immigration. Also, nearly 8 in 10 Americans think immigration is good for the country, with some Republicans in agreement.

In a 2019 poll, 65 percent thought the situation at the border to be a major or important problem. And 75 percent favored hiring significantly more Border Patrol agents.

What we see is that Americans support a large immigration program but want it kept legal. Canada and Australia do both. How sensible of them.

An experienced politician who wants to retain public support for a humane immigration program should know by now that an orderly border is essential — and that given the pressures, any show of laxness is a guarantee of disorder. On this issue, Biden can't be a nice guy without also being a tough guy.

He needs to show resolve and show it now.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com