Migration at the Center of the Electoral Debate in the US: Biden Seeks More Restrictions on the Mexico Border Amid Trump's Pressures


The pressure from Donald Trump in the midst of an election year has forced U.S. President Joe Biden to make a shift in the Democratic Party's immigration policy, proposing the most significant restrictions in recent years on the Mexico border.

The White House has suggested cutting the asylum system and intensifying rapid deportations of migrants, an old Republican demand, in exchange for Congress approving new military aid for Ukraine.

However, Trump's supporters argue that it is not enough and are not willing to make concessions to Biden with nine months left until the elections.

Biden came to power presenting himself as the opposite of Trump, who proposed building a border wall in 2016. The Democrat promised to make the United States a "safe place for refugees and asylum seekers" and to grant legal status to the more than 11 million undocumented migrants living in the country.

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Over three years later, those ideas have been forgotten amid a global increase in the movement of people and internal pressure to control the arrival of foreigners to the country, with more than 2 million irregular border crossings recorded in 2023 for the second consecutive year.

This, coupled with the urgency for Republicans to lift the blockade on military aid for Ukraine, led the White House to negotiate an immigration deal that includes the most significant changes to immigration laws in decades, focusing on restricting the right to asylum.

"Now discussions of immigration reform are focused only on the border, on how to control it," explains Yael Schacher, a researcher at Refugees International.

Under current laws, a person has the right to apply for asylum in the United States at the border or within U.S. territory. Unlike other types of legal migration, such as work visas, the legislation does not set a limit on the number of people who can be granted asylum each year due to the humanitarian aspect of this protection.

"To stop treating asylum as a right that everyone can apply for is something completely new for the United States," emphasized Schacher.

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For some people who supported Biden in the 2020 elections, the abandonment of his promises on immigration is a disappointment, according to Vanessa Cárdenas, who worked on his election campaign. "He has strayed far from what he said he wanted to do."

Cárdenas believes that this change can also be attributed to the fact that the Republican Party has been adopting increasingly right-wing ideas that have become part of popular thinking.

Although Republicans have been denouncing a "invasion" of migrants due to Biden's alleged "open borders" policy, they refuse to support the restrictions proposed by the president.

Therefore, the White House's proposal negotiated with some lawmakers sank on Wednesday in a preliminary Senate vote, where virtually all conservatives voted against it.

Biden directly blames Trump for this blockade, accusing him of intimidating Republican lawmakers to oppose any proposal and gain electoral advantage.

The New York tycoon is the leading favorite for the Republican nomination for the November elections, where Biden will seek re-election for a second term.

The Republican Party wants the campaign to revolve around immigration, and for this reason, they have tried to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden's migration chief.

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According to a Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, migration is now the issue that most voters point to as their greatest concern, surpassing inflation.

On the contrary, a Congressional report published this week predicted that migration will add seven trillion dollars to the U.S. economy in the next decade.

Although the immigration plan seems to have no future, it demonstrates that Trump is winning the narrative on immigration against Biden.

"The Republicans have turned the issue into a problem and have trapped the Democrats in a debate about the border," summarizes Rebeka Wolf, an expert at the American Immigration Council.