Conflict within the Biden Administration, with Haiti migrants as example

The Wall Street Journal reported Nov 18 on internal dissension and policy zigzagging. Also see the Center for Immigration Studies’ analysis of the article, here. The internal dissension is most acute on responses to record high Mexican border crossings and arrests.

On one side are officials who helped shape Mr. Biden’s campaign message and now occupy several top immigration-policy jobs at the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. Those officials say policies aimed at deterring migrants from crossing the border don’t work and support overhauling the immigration system to resolve requests for asylum faster, give asylum seekers the ability to apply from their home countries and create more legal immigration pathways.

They are backed by members of the Democrats’ progressive wing in Congress and immigration advocacy groups influential in the administration and the party.

On the other side are some senior advisers to the president and career border-enforcement officials who in an effort to manage record border apprehensions favor deterrence strategies, including ramping up deportations and putting pressure on Mexico to step up enforcement, saying the administration needs to reduce arrests before tackling long-term changes. They include White House chief of staff Ron Klain, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, senior adviser Cedric Richmond and Susan Rice, domestic policy adviser.

Example: Haitian migrants

Internal intelligence reports early in the year showed that Haitians, who had been living for years in South America, were on the move toward the U.S. border. Some advisers as early as the spring argued in favor of deportations to Haiti, saying that even a few flights to the Caribbean nation would prevent larger numbers of Haitians from attempting to cross the border.

Others countered that the country was too unstable to receive migrants and pushed instead for all Haitians present in the U.S. illegally to be shielded from deportation through a mechanism known as Temporary Protected Status, as Mr. Biden had said he would provide for Haitians during the campaign.

Ultimately, officials decided to follow two tracks: Haitians in the U.S. illegally before July 29 were allowed to stay, but new arrivals could be deported.

In August, as intelligence reports showed large groups of Haitian migrants in southern Mexico preparing to move north, ICE planned to deport about 600 Haitians who had recently crossed the border.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, signed off on the deportations, people familiar with the matter said. But he reversed the decision and ordered them released after immigration advocates flagged that the migrants were eligible for deportation protection.

News of their release spread on Haitian social media. A month later, about 30,000 Haitians crossed the border near Del Rio, Texas, with thousands crowded under a bridge. Those later arrivals didn’t qualify for the temporary deportation relief. The U.S. sent 58 deportation flights to Haiti in September, up from two the previous month.

The deportations have helped dissuade Haitian migrants. Border Patrol agents made 1,083 arrests of Haitians in October, down from nearly 18,000 in September. But it irked members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who opposed the deportations and raised concerns about the treatment of Haitian migrants by border patrol agents.

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