Less than three months since the inauguration, President Biden is facing an immigration crisis of his own making.
Mr. Biden is ignoring the mounting crisis and refusing to even acknowledge its negative impacts on the U.S. economy — an economy that is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Mr. Biden promotes mass amnesty.
Meanwhile, our southern border is exploding with record numbers of aliens, especially children, arriving each day. In fact, U.S. Customs and Border Protection saw a 28% increase in illegal crossings in February 2021. Under Mr. Biden’s new policies, each newly arriving alien has a strong likelihood of being authorized to work in the United States, further impacting unemployment rates and flooding the low-skilled job market.
It is clear that the Department of Homeland Security lacks the needed resources along the border and cannot prevent a mass influx of aliens. This untenable situation will continue to hamper an economy still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and state responses that were both reckless and overbroad.
How did the situation at the southern border devolve so rapidly? The simple answer is that perceptions matter. Prior to entering office, Mr. Biden launched a full-scale attack on border security and immigration enforcement. Without reviewing the policies themselves, he has sought to undo every immigration-related change that former President Trump made. The America First agenda is being destroyed solely because it was instituted by our former president.
Additionally, the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act legislation in both the House and Senate and the continued dismantling of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), otherwise known as the Remain-in-Mexico Program, send a clear message that flagrant disregard for our immigration laws will be rewarded. The real message: “Welcome, we have work authorization for everyone (even if we don’t have enough jobs).”
With the national economy still recovering and unemployment rates beginning to decline, it is stunning that Mr. Biden would put forth immigration legislation that floods the labor market.
The U.S. Citizenship Act provides permanent green cards for virtually all illegal aliens, including those here with DACA and Temporary Protected Status, and provides additional pathways for family members not presently in the U.S. It sets aside statutory annual caps of new green card holders, and most egregiously, allows people previously deported during the Trump administration to seek re-admission specifically so they can apply for amnesty.
During the height of the pandemic, unemployment rates in New Jersey increased 10% and 13% in Los Angeles. Both are beginning to stabilize but remain higher than pre-pandemic rates. I must assume that the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, and Rep. Linda Sanchez, California Democrat, were unaware of its likely economic impact on their respective constituents. In fact, estimates suggest that the U.S. Citizenship Act will grant amnesty to at least 11 million illegal aliens, all of whom will be authorized to work in this country.
The result will be more people competing against Americans and legal immigrants for fewer jobs and an increased reliance on public benefits. This does not benefit jobseekers in New Jersey, Los Angeles or anywhere in this country, and falling unemployment rates will rapidly rise.
Simultaneously, the successful MPP program is now derailed with Mr. Biden allowing each alien previously enrolled in the program to enter and effectively abscond throughout the country. MPP effectively curbed economic migrants seeking to use our asylum system to enter and work while their claim was pending. With that program now turned off, there is, yet again, little to prevent anyone from claiming asylum at the border and being given work authorization.
The national economy cannot support this sharp increase in new entrants. But it is hard to imagine that Mr. Biden expected any other result when pairing amnesty with an abandonment of the changes Mr. Trump made to ensure that almost everyone applying for legal status can support themselves without public assistance.
Mr. Biden must take a hard look at the consequences of his open borders policies. He must secure the border, enforce immigration laws and stop promoting amnesty. There is a time to debate immigration reform, but that time is not during a period of economic recovery in the wake of an unprecedented pandemic. Placing the burden of dangerous open-borders policies on the backs of the American people is irresponsible. Americans need jobs and a return to the pre-COVID-19 economy and employment rates more than they need a stimulus check.
• Joseph Edlow is the former USCIS senior official responsible for day-to-day operations as well as policy development and implementation. He previously served as the USCIS Chief Counsel and as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Office of Legal Policy within the Department of Justice.