Carl P. Leubsdorf, Tribune News Service
In the past two months, President Joe Biden’s revised procedures for stemming the influx of asylum seekers across the Southern border have seemed to be working, substantially slowing the flow. But the difficulty in dealing administratively with the immigration situation was underscored when a federal judge in California ruled the procedures violate a federal law granting asylum to anyone on US soil — a ruling that will be appealed. It came as the Republican-controlled US House and the Republican governor of Texas were pressing ahead with “solutions” to the immigration problem that are unlikely to solve anything. In Washington, the House Homeland Security Committee has begun an investigation of Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that some GOP members hope will end in his impeachment. The chairman, Tennessee Rep. Andy Green, has already pronounced Mayorkas “derelict” in his duty. House Republicans threatened that action after winning their majority last November. They also passed legislation that is unacceptable to either the Senate or President Joe Biden.
In Texas, meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest scheme to stop illegal immigration — installing floating barriers and razor wire in the Rio Grande — has stirred a sharp backlash, including criticism from the Mexican government and legal action by the Biden administration to stop measures it called “despicable” and “inhumane.” In its suit, the Justice Department contended on Monday that the state’s unilateral installation of floating barriers violated a US-Mexico agreement covering international waters and a requirement for permission from the Corps of Engineers, arguments promptly dismissed by Abbott. It came after he sent Biden a letter, welcoming a confrontation, defending his actions and charging that the administration’s failure to solve the border problem put migrants at risk.
“Texas will see you in court, Mr. President,” Abbott said. This clash has been building for months. But there is a striking contrast between the GOP threats and restrictive acts and the administration’s effort to make border procedures more effective. The numbers show that the administration’s steps to process would-be asylum seekers before they reach the border and initiate stiffer rules against those who try to enter but lack legitimate reasons have been effective. But they are at best an ad hoc answer, something illustrated again by the fact that they may be stopped by Tuesday’s California ruling at the behest of pro-immigration groups. In fact, these solutions are all destined to fail — Biden’s, Abbott’s and the House GOP’s — because the underlying problems won’t be solved without bipartisan legislation protecting the border and asylum seekers and providing a legal road to citizenship for those who meet specified procedures.
Unfortunately, there’s no sign of that happening any time soon. House Republicans did pass a bill to add border agents, resume building former President Donald Trump’s border wall and authorize the secretary to bar any potential entrant if “necessary in order to achieve operational control over” the border. But the Democratic-controlled Senate won’t consider it. It’s even unclear if the GOP House could pass an impeachment resolution against Mayorkas if its Homeland Security Committee recommends one. Meanwhile, Abbott has continued to step up hardline policies on which Texas has spent billions under Operation Lone Star with questionable results since Biden stopped building Trump’s wall and removed some of his administration’s more restrictive border policies. His latest actions — including installing the floating barriers — have encountered more than the usual criticism from Democrats and immigrant rights groups. It was triggered after the Houston Chronicle quoted an email from a state trooper alleging orders to push migrants back into the Rio Grande and deny them water despite 100-degree temperatures.
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