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The Morning Dispatch: Biden's Border Woes Continue
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The Morning Dispatch: Biden’s Border Woes Continue

The surge of migrants at the border is the largest in decades, defying all seasonal trends.

Happy Wednesday! Our softball league’s playoffs begin tonight, and rumor has it a certain center-right media company’s CEO is slated to make an appearance …

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Senate voted 69-30 on Tuesday to pass the bipartisan infrastructure package, with 19 Republicans and all 50 Democrats supporting the bill. It authorizes $550 billion in new spending and would—according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office—add $256 billion to the deficit over the next decade. The package now goes to the House, which is expected to take it up at some point in late August or early September.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he will resign his post in 14 days, heading off a likely impeachment following Attorney General Letitia James’ recent report detailing the governor’s history of sexual harassment. Cuomo maintained yesterday the report was “politically motivated” and that the “most serious allegations” against him “had no credible factual basis,” but said he would resign so as not to distract from the government’s functioning. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, will be sworn in upon Cuomo’s resignation.

  • President Biden on Tuesday announced eight U.S. attorney nominations, including Damian Williams to serve as U.S. attorney for the powerful Southern District of New York. Williams has worked in the SDNY office—which is overseeing several investigations into former President Trump’s business and associates—for almost a decade, focusing on securities fraud.

  • Democratic Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin announced yesterday that he will not seek reelection in 2022, telling reporters he’s “run out of gas” after nearly 25 years in office. Kind defeated his Republican opponent in 2020 by about 3 percentage points, but Donald Trump won the district by almost 5 points.

  • A Chinese court sentenced Canadian businessman Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison after declaring him guilty of spying and sharing state secrets with a foreign recipient. The case is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive in 2018.

  • The Texas House of Representatives voted 80-12 Tuesday night to authorize law enforcement officers to round up Democratic lawmakers who fled the chamber last month “under warrant of arrest, if necessary.”

Biden’s Border Plan Isn’t Working

(Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images.)

By now, there’s no denying that the U.S. is in the midst of a historic surge of illegal immigration. More than 188,000 migrants were intercepted trying to cross the border in June, the highest monthly number in more than 20 years. Preliminary estimates show July to have topped even that, with 210,000 migrant apprehensions.

These numbers are even more striking when you factor in seasonal trends. Illegal border crossings typically plummet during the summer, when the heat makes the long, arduous journey up through Central America and Mexico even more unbearable. More people are attempting to get into the country illegally than have been in a long, long time.

Such a surge makes one thing clear: Eight months into Joe Biden’s presidency, at least one plank of his immigration policy has failed.

Until now, Biden has gambled that he can walk a tightrope on immigration—gradually easing the border control policies implemented by his predecessor and loathed by his base, but keeping crossings down via a messaging strategy communicating to potential migrants that the border remains closed and they should not attempt the journey.

When it came to border crossings, Trump left two major policies in place: The Migrant Protection Protocols, under which migrants suing for asylum in America were required to remain in Mexico pending their court date, and Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that required the deportation of all border-crossers from Mexico and several Central American countries, purportedly for the sake of public health. Biden ended the former entirely and the latter in part, implementing an exception for unaccompanied children.

All the while, the administration insisted that these policy moves did not amount to reopening the border. “The border is closed,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told NBC back in March. “We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults. And we’ve made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children. … We just won’t do that. That’s not who we are.”

With migrants seemingly not getting the memo, team Biden has made additional gestures toward enforcement in recent weeks. After suggesting it was on the brink of ending Title 42 altogether last month, the administration reversed itself last week, renewing the order indefinitely. They’ve also moved to resume “expedited removal” of some families with children crossing the border illegally who do not fall under Title 42, permitting them to be immediately re-expelled without a hearing unless they claim they face likely immediate harm back home. Finally, the administration has taken several measures to discourage previously deported people from attempting the crossing again, including flying migrants expelled under Title 42 deeper into Mexico and stepping up referrals for prosecution for single adults who try the crossing multiple times.

Politically, trying to walk the border-enforcement tightrope may have given Biden the worst of both worlds. The Title 42 extension has landed the president in hot water with progressive and human rights organizations, who have argued since its implementation that the policy illegally prevents migrants from making asylum claims to which they are entitled under both U.S. and international law. The American Civil Liberties Union, which had been negotiating an end to Title 42 with the administration, announced last week it would go back to court to combat the policy’s extension.

“The Biden administration asked for some time to repair the damage done by the Trump administration to the asylum process, but it has now been seven months,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told Politico. “That’s a more than sufficient amount of time.”

Meanwhile, immigration hawks contend that Biden’s partial extension of Trump policies isn’t enough to discourage migrants from attempting the trip to the U.S., since those migrants deduce—with good reason, in light of Biden’s own stated priorities—that border enforcement is already looser than it was under Trump, and is likely to grow more so as time goes on.

The people currently trying to enter the U.S. en masse “are people who have observed the success of those who came in before in getting access to the United States, and are acting on what they have seen,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the restrictionist Center for American Studies, told The Dispatch. “When Trump put into effect the remain in Mexico program, that didn’t just make people stay in Mexico until their hearing date—that dissuaded people who hadn’t even left home yet. And so the opposite effect has happened now under Biden. The people coming across are not just those who were cooling their heels in Mexico in the first couple of months; they’re now people who have made new decisions based on the ability of those people who were already near the border to get in.”

The raw numbers of migrants attempting to make the crossing aren’t the only issue making political pain for Biden. What the government does with the migrants it detains remains a problem, too. Border patrol stations have once again been struggling with overcrowding, a problem made more critical by rampant transmission of COVID-19. To handle the surge, border patrol has both turned over some migrant processing duties to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and, in some cases, released undocumented families into the U.S. before they can even be scheduled for a court date. DHS officials told NBC News last month that more than 50,000 migrants had been released without court dates or any means of tracking their whereabouts; of that number, 15,000 had failed to subsequently report to an ICE field office as instructed.

Worth Your Time

  • Disgraced New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s list of ethical transgressions doesn’t begin and end with a coverup of nursing home COVID deaths and sexual harassment allegations. Hours before his resignation Tuesday, Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker broke the story of Cuomo’s apparent effort to deter a federal prosecutor from investigating his closure of an anti-corruption commission by appealing to the Obama White House in 2014. “The commission began with a sweeping mandate from Cuomo to probe systemic corruption in political campaigns and state government,” Farrow writes. “However, interviews with a dozen former officials with ties to the commission, along with hundreds of pages of internal documents, text messages, and personal notes obtained by The New Yorker, reveal that Cuomo and his team used increasingly heavy-handed tactics to limit inquiries that might implicate him or his allies.”

  • It was an incredibly long and bumpy road to Senate passage for the bipartisan infrastructure package. Politico congressional reporters Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine take readers behind the scenes, detailing how the chemistry and trust between a group of 10 senators got the deal across the finish line. “[Sen. Kyrsten] Sinema and [Sen. Rob] Portman are the gang’s de facto leaders on infrastructure; they couldn’t be more different. The buttoned-up Portman avoids controversy, while the enigmatic Sinema is loathed by liberals and revels in ignoring their ire. [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski called it an “unlikely partnership,” but it worked,” Everett and Levine write. “‘There was a pragmatism that came from Portman about, you know, just methodically punching through,’ Murkowski recalled. When negotiators tried to reopen items that had already been agreed to, the Alaskan said, Sinema would tell them: ‘You, stop that. We’ve already resolved that.’”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Tuesday’s edition of The Sweep features a potpourri of Sarah’s thoughts: on Cuomo’s resignation, vaccine mandates for campaign staffers, Tim Scott’s fundraising prowess, Texas Democrats, and more. Plus, Chris Stirewalt explains why political reporters tend to struggle gauging the viability of candidates.

  • This week’s Uphill focuses on—you guessed it—infrastructure! Sen. Bill Cassidy—an architect of the deal—shares his frustration with some of its detractors, accusing them of “totally making things up out of whole cloth.” Stick around for a status report on Democrats’ gargantuan budget resolution, and another update on the debt ceiling.

  • “Why are we losing Afghanistan? The shortest accurate answer is that we’ve chosen to lose Afghanistan.” David’s latest French Press (🔒) looks at the final days of America’s longest war, and why the United States proved unable to win it. “While it’s wrong to say that we didn’t accomplish anything in the nation-building mission,” he writes, “it’s absolutely correct that we didn’t accomplish enough, and there was no reasonable timetable to accomplish enough to leave the nation with any degree of confidence that its government could stand alone.”

  • Jonah is joined on The Remnant by Case Western University professor Jonathan Adler. The two explore the constitutional implications of the eviction moratorium, whether The Suicide Squad is worth watching, and how mitigating the threat of climate change through nuclear power won’t produce an abundance of three-eyed fish.

  • On the site today, Bill Wirtz details the protests sweeping Europe over vaccine passport mandates and explains how the vaccination debate is different there than here in the United States.

  • Also, Jonah writes that Biden’s decision to unilaterally implement an eviction moratorium is a violation of his oath of office, but points out it is unlikely to come with too heavy a political price: George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump all did the same, and no one seemed to care. We should be outraged, he writes, both at feckless politicians “and at ourselves: “It’s a rare day that fidelity to the Constitution is demanded by the people or the press, except when it’s a useful talking point about a partisan disagreement.”

Let Us Know

In honor of tonight’s Dispatch softball game, what is your greatest athletic feat of all time?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).