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Governor playing politics on border

Commentary:

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham flew to Washington D.C. last week so she could stand behind President Joe Biden as he announced a new crackdown on asylum seekers, just in time for the election.

“As a border state governor and former chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I’m encouraged by President Biden’s plan to rein in illegal border crossers and help our nation’s immigration officers manage this challenge,” she said in a prepared statement.

Biden’s plan would turn back migrants at the border anytime the average number of crossings reaches 2,500 a day. There are currently about 3,500 illegal crossings a day, according to border authorities. The plan would not impact the free flow of commerce across the border, and there are exceptions for unaccompanied minors.

It is a Solomonic effort that has pleased neither side, the governor excepted, and is likely to be overturned by the court. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued successfully to halt Trump-era immigration policies, has now filed suit against the Biden administration, which is attempting to use the same authority in the law as Donald Trump tried.

It is, of course, another court that Biden is most concerned about - the court of public opinion. Both parties have an issue they’d rather not talk about. For Republicans, it’s abortion. For Democrats, it’s immigration.

Biden was quick to denounce Trump’s immigration policies, which included the ghoulish practice of intentionally separating children from their parents. But, he was slow to announce his own immigration policies to address a growing problem.

In the final year of his first term, Biden finally gave his approval to an immigration compromise that had been hammered out in the Senate. Trump ordered fellow Republicans to kill the bill because he would rather have the problem to campaign on than the solution.

While it’s fair to criticize him for that, it is also fair to point out that Biden had three years to address the problem, and didn’t. Both men are playing politics.

And what about the governor? Current members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that Lujan Grisham once chaired have blasted the president’s enforcement-only approach to the problem, ignoring issues like recognition of so-called Dreamers, immigrants who were illegally brought into the country as children, and needed protections for farmworkers.

“Having an enforcement-only executive order, I think it’s disappointing; and I think we really need to make sure that we’re actually solving the problem, which requires a path to citizenship," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In her statement supporting the plan, Lujan Grisham said she has consistently requested more Border Patrol agents and resources for the state. But this executive order won’t help. Appropriations to fund those activities must come from Congress.

She boasts that the executive order will, “maximize the resources that are available for border security, strategically deploying Border Patrol agents where they are needed most.” But, that can be done without changing asylum laws, leaving one to wonder why it’s not being done now.

Maybe the governor is sincere in her belief that asylum seekers should be turned away without so much as a basic screening. But I suspect Biden and Trump aren’t the only ones playing politics.

 

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com. Walter Rubel's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.