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Border Déjà Vu: Biden Confronts Similar Challenges as His Predecessors

April 01, 2021 (1 min read)

Muzaffar Chishti and Sarah Pierce, MPI Policy Beat, Apr. 1, 2021

"President Joe Biden’s administration is facing a burgeoning crisis as projected record-breaking numbers of foreign-born children arrive at the U.S. southern border seeking refuge. The challenge, which Biden says was to be expected, has been met with a lack of adequate resources, preparedness, and public relations. The backlash has been swift and is quickly affecting the administration’s ambitious immigration policy agenda, with potential ripple effects on other top domestic policy priorities.

The arrival of vulnerable populations, especially children and families from Central America, has been a daunting challenge for close to a decade, with pronounced peaks in 2014 and 2019. But the last three months have seen the fastest rate of increase in arrivals of unaccompanied children on record, with nearly 5,700 arriving in January, just under 9,300 in February, and possibly more than 17,000 in March. This pace of arrivals has created the perception of both an out-of-control border and a heart-wrenching humanitarian emergency.

What the current situation shares with the prior peaks is that, despite Biden’s promises for different responses, his administration has been consumed by meeting immediate needs on the ground. Those demands have cost precious time in launching the long-term reforms that treat the flows as an enduring phenomenon, given the pressures driving people to leave Central America. Instead, it appears the administration is repeating actions that treat the problem as short-lived. Its inability or unwillingness to acknowledge that reality has caught this administration unprepared, as were its predecessors. ... (more) ... "