What's Old Is New Again: Biden's Border Policies Becoming More and More Trumpy

AP Photo/Christian Chavez

“At this point, I can’t tell the difference between Biden immigration policy and Trump immigration policy,” one asylum officer told CNN.

Indeed, the pandemic public health emergency is set to end on May 11 which means Title 42 restrictions on border crossers will end. At that time, the U.S. is expecting a flood of illegal aliens to attempt to cross the border. In anticipation, the Biden administration has been implementing several policies that were originally used by Donald Trump to deal with the 2018 border crisis.


One policy among them — once described as “cruel” and “inhuman” — is reinstating family detention at the border.

“It feels like Groundhog Day,” another asylum officer told CNN. “With the Trump era, it felt like we had really gotten to rock bottom and when Biden took over, it seemed like a light ahead of us. It feels very disheartening.”

There are only so many ways to control our sovereign border. What Biden is finding is that Trump’s policies don’t look so bad now that he has the responsibility to protect us. This is especially true for the hundreds of thousands of Central and South American people who are fleeing violence, hunger, and poverty.

Related: Terrorists Are Crossing the Border, But Relax: ‘Experts’ Say It’s Nothing to Worry About

Biden’s most controversial move so far has been to reinstate Trump’s policy that bars asylum seekers from applying for asylum in the U.S. if they passed through other countries. Despite outcries that this violates international law, it does no such thing. It’s never been part of U.S. asylum policy until Trump was president but given the scope of the crisis, it appears that Biden agrees it was the only way to get control of the border.

Asylum officers are none too pleased with Biden’s Trumpy policies.

But in a formal filing opposing the proposal, the union that represents federal asylum officers, known as Council 119 of the American Federation of Government Employees, called the proposed rule “draconian” and argued that enforcing it “could make them complicit in violations of U.S. and international law.”

“It’s really disappointing because it’s asking asylum officers and civil servants to conduct work that is not in accordance with our mission or international agreements,” another asylum officer told CNN, referring to the proposed rule.

The rule will likely take effect in May and is expected to last for two years.

The dissatisfaction among asylum officers over stringent asylum policies is reminiscent of the Trump years. CNN spoke with asylum officers located across the country who said they had hoped Biden would correct course from his predecessor, but the latest slate of policy considerations, they say, is discouraging.


When there were 220,000 people crossing the border every month, both Trump and Biden looked at the situation and came to pretty much the same conclusion. Ideology and politics had little to do with the choices made by the two men. Border security is an administrative problem — non-partisan, non-ideological.

As the administration prepares for the end of Title 42, other policies with echoes of the Trump administration may also make a comeback.

Administration officials are now planning on restarting a policy that could expedite the asylum process. That policy would require that some migrants remain in US Customs and Border Protection facilities for their credible fear interviews, the first step in the asylum process, according to three sources familiar with the discussions. Those screenings usually happen in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, which typically have spaces for the sensitive interviews.

The policy has echoes of the Prompt Asylum Claim Review, which was implemented under the Trump administration and fielded fierce criticism from immigrant advocates who argued it put asylum seekers at a disadvantage. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit against PACR, argued that CBP facilities, which are akin to jail-like conditions, aren’t suitable for the asylum process.

Asking Biden and the Democrats to apologize for all those nasty things they said about Trump and his policies is a waste of time. But they know the truth. They know that Trump chose the correct path to deal with a nearly impossible situation.


It would be nice if Biden acknowledged it.


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