New Immigration Measures Unlikely To Boost Biden’s Approval Rating – OpEd


By Dalia Al-Aqidi

Immigration has long been a central issue for American voters, consistently ranking among the top three concerns according to numerous polls. Since May 2022, data from Harvard/Harris has indicated that President Joe Biden’s approval rating on immigration has been persistently low, reflecting widespread public dissatisfaction.

RealClearPolitics’ polling averages currently place the president’s approval rating on immigration at 32 percent, underscoring a critical area of discontent among voters. This sustained low approval rating is indicative of the public’s concern over immigration policies and the ongoing situation at the southern border.

American concern over the country’s border with Mexico has been unwavering for the past three years. This period has seen significant increases in the number of migrants attempting to enter the US, creating substantial challenges for both border enforcement and humanitarian efforts. The public’s apprehension is primarily fueled by the perception that the southern border is inadequately secured, leading to uncontrolled migration and potential security risks.

In response to mounting political pressure and the persistent influx of migrants, Biden this month signed an executive order designed to temporarily halt asylum requests once the average number of daily encounters exceeds 2,500 at official ports of entry. According to the Department of Homeland Security, this measure is intended to provide temporary relief to overwhelmed border facilities and staff, who currently handle an average of more than 4,000 daily encounters. The executive action aims to address the immediate logistical challenges posed by the high volume of migrants, while also signaling a shift toward more stringent border control measures.

US Customs and Border Protection reported 179,725 encounters along the southern border in April alone. This is a slight decrease from previous months but remains very high, reflecting the ongoing pressures on border security and immigration management. More than 1.5 million encounters have been recorded for the current fiscal year, meaning it is likely to surpass the total number of encounters recorded in fiscal years 2023, 2022 and 2021. This trend highlights the escalating scale of migration and the increasing complexity of the issues at hand.

The president’s executive action has drawn various responses from different stakeholders. Advocates for more robust border security have welcomed the move, viewing it as a necessary step to control the flow of migrants and reduce the burden on border facilities. They argue that temporarily suspending asylum requests is critical for managing the surge and maintaining national security. On the other hand, immigrant rights groups and some political opponents have criticized the measure, arguing that it may violate international asylum obligations and undermine the rights of individuals seeking refuge from persecution and violence. They contend that the policy could deny protection to vulnerable populations and exacerbate humanitarian crises.

The administration has acknowledged these concerns and emphasized that the executive action is a temporary measure intended to address the immediate crisis at the border. The US president has stated that his administration is committed to a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, which includes addressing the root causes of migration, such as poverty, violence and corruption in the migrants’ countries of origin. The White House has outlined plans to work with international partners, including governments in Central America and Mexico, to mitigate the conditions that drive migration and to create legal pathways for individuals seeking to enter the US. 

However, many Americans remain skeptical, as similar promises have been made in the past, with little to show for them. Upon taking office, Biden tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with spearheading the White House’s efforts to address illegal immigration. Her role included collaborating with Central American countries to tackle the root causes of migration. Despite these initiatives, the mission of the first female vice president in the nation’s history has failed.

In addition to immediate border control measures, the current administration announced its intention to focus on reforming the asylum process to make it more efficient and fairer. Efforts are underway to streamline the adjudication of asylum claims, reduce backlogs and ensure that individuals with legitimate asylum claims can receive protection in a timely manner.

The liberal Biden administration has highlighted its commitment to bolstering border security through a multifaceted approach that includes increased funding for advanced technology, expanding personnel and making significant infrastructure improvements. It claims that this comprehensive strategy aims to enhance the effectiveness of border controls and address the complex challenges associated with illegal immigration and national security threats.

Despite these statements, federal authorities last week conducted a significant operation that led to the arrest of eight foreign nationals suspected of having ties to the terrorist group Daesh. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out these arrests, apprehending the Tajikistani nationals in various locations across the country, including Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. The individuals were allegedly involved in activities that raised serious concerns about national security and public safety.

The arrest of these individuals underscores the persistent and evolving nature of security threats. It also highlights the need for ongoing vigilance and stricter border management policies. The presence of foreign nationals with alleged connections to a terrorist organization within the US serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced by immigration and law enforcement agencies. These agencies must continually adapt their strategies to effectively counter sophisticated and transnational threats.

In addition to these arrests, FBI Director Christopher Wray, in an address in April, expressed grave concerns about people-smuggling operations at the southern border. Wray warned that these operations might be facilitating the entry of individuals with affiliations to terrorist groups. This statement drew attention to the broader implications of human trafficking networks that exploit weaknesses in border security, posing significant risks to national security.

The warning from the FBI underscores the complexity of border security challenges and the need for a coordinated response that addresses both immediate and long-term threats. The smuggling of individuals with potential terrorist connections not only endangers public safety but also complicates the broader efforts to manage and secure the border. These concerns are particularly relevant in the context of the increasing number of migrants attempting to illegally enter the country, which has been a focal point of national debate and policymaking.

President Biden’s new measures are unlikely to improve his approval rating. Many Americans view his decision as a case of too little, too late.

• Dalia Al-Aqidi is executive director at the American Center for Counter Extremism.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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