Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

The Border Mess That Trump Left Behind

| Feb. 19, 2021

Reversing the previous administration's cruelties isn't the same as an unconditional welcome.

As President Joe Biden tries to undo the damage that his predecessor did to America's immigration system, three problems are getting in the way: The nation's existing laws are outmoded and overly restrictive, the United States hasn't devoted the resources necessary to review individual cases, and the Biden administration has little control over when migrants will arrive at the border and seek entry.

Soon after taking office, Biden moved to dismantle Donald Trump's nastiest immigration and border-enforcement policies. Biden has lifted Trump's ban on travelers from certain Muslim countries; halted construction of a wasteful border wall; promised to protect enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, whom Trump was ready to deport; and launched a task force to reunite migrant families separated at the border. Yesterday, he proposed reform legislation that, if enacted, would give undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. a route to becoming citizens.

In the meantime, the U.S. border is coming under stress. Biden's more humane policies have led to rumors that the U.S.-Mexico border is now essentially open, both for asylum seekers who show up at ports of entry and for others who cross unlawfully. Smugglers are eager to spread that idea. For the moment, the United States' humanitarian interest lies not just in showing kindness to those who reach the border, but also in stemming the flow of people who undertake the journey in the first place.

The Trump administration defined itself with its efforts to shut down immigration, and Biden largely defined his presidential candidacy as a repudiation of Trump. But, ironically, the new administration finds itself imploring potential migrants not to head north. "Now is not the time to come," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week. "The vast majority of people will be turned away."...

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“The Border Mess That Trump Left Behind.” The Atlantic, February 19, 2021.

The Author

Juliette Kayyem Headshot