In assigning a task force to devise ways to reunite families across America’s southern border, President Joe Biden is seeking to increase immigration while attempting to avoid the bad optics of a new border crisis.
Biden’s executive order, signed Tuesday, aims to revive an Obama-era program that allowed some children to come to the U.S. legally if they had family here with legal status. Though Biden’s order does not reinstate the Central American Minors program (CAM), there is an expectation the task force will recommend that, and more. (The panel is headed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, confirmed Tuesday by the Senate on roughly partisan lines, 56-43.)
“The Biden team knows its immigration proposals could trigger a crisis at the border, with thousands of migrants from Central America rushing to claim asylum in the United States,” writes Nayla Rush, a senior researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies. “To avoid embarrassing images of such a crisis, I expect the administration to open the ‘back door’ to this country by reviving and reinforcing programs that bring Central Americans here directly, away from the gaze of the media.”
Until it was disbanded by President Trump in 2017, CAM had yielded a modest flow of young migrants, largely because the program required stateside residents to have legal status. To cast a wider net for Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans, eligibility was extended to adult children, married children, biological parents and unrelated “caregivers.”
Rush foresees an even more robust program under Biden, whose order commits the U.S. to “enhance lawful pathways for migration to this country.”
“The administration might expand the program by allowing those illegally present in the United States to petition for their adult children and their families, as well as for other family members or acquaintances. … [R]equirements like proof of kinship and DNA testing, background checks and medical clearance could be eased or dropped altogether,” she stated.
An unidentified administration official this week dismissed Trump immigration enforcement strategies as “wasteful and naïve.” Now, amid talk of amnesty, Biden has warmed up caravan activity in Central America while stirring hopes of easier admission for asylum seekers at Mexico’s northern border.
The president’s gambit for “family reunification” looks dangerously open-ended. Expanding the already-loose parameters of a rescinded executive order and calling it a “lawful” exercise in compassion is disingenuous, to say the least.