IMMIGRATIONWhat Biden Can Do After Another Failed Border Deal

By David J. Bier

Published 12 March 2024

It’s no surprise that before any actual text of the bipartisan immigration bill became public, Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate said they would oppose the bill. Republican senators and the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board say that Trump believes an immigration deal would help Biden win re‐election. To get the politics right, Biden must get the policy right first. He should bet on policy, not politics, to neuter the apocalyptic border rhetoric. Allowing more immigrants to arrive legally will curb the chaos at the order – and it is the only chance to break out of a decade of failed immigration deals.

A bipartisan immigration deal to restrict border crossings took a hit three weeks ago when Donald Trump pushed Congress to reject it. It’s the latest in a series of episodes over the last decade where one party blows up a deal just as the other gives in. President Biden wants to break this cycle, but to get the politics right, he must get the policy right first.

As long as the border is in chaos, Mr. Trump bets voters will continue to prefer him on this issue. He’s almost certainly right. But perhaps it’s chaos, not immigration per se, that upsets voters, and Mr. Biden can curb the chaos by letting more immigrants come to the United States legally. Legal and orderly migration would subtract from the illegal flows, making the Republicans’ talk of an “invasion” seem like hyperbole and force them back to negotiate.

The political strategy of bad‐faith negotiating isn’t new. In 2007, Barack Obama, then a U.S. senator from Illinois, worked with reform opponents to pass poison‐​pill amendments that gutted a guest worker program favored by moderate Republicans, causing them to abandon a bipartisan “path to citizenship”bill. In 2013, Democrats pulled a bait‐​andswitch with Rep. Raul Labrador, initially agreeing to limit Obamacare for newly legalized immigrants only to flip after the Senate passed its bill. In 2018, it was Mr. Trump’s turn to ask for a border wall in return for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, only to reject the bipartisan plan.

Mr. Biden may believe that liberal demands pushed Republicans to walk away in the past. Since he’s desperate for a deal, he’s not asking for any liberal priorities. The bill reportedly would provide more than $14 billion to detain and deport immigrants as well as restrictions on asylum that are more extreme than anything Mr. Trump requested from Congress during his term.

Mr. Biden had been prepared to give in to the G.O.P.’s demands in exchange for nothing. But the president’s strategy was doomed to fail.

It’s no surprise that before any actual text became public, Mr. Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate said they would oppose the bill. While Mr. Trump admitted that the proposal would, from his perspective, improve policy, he also said the party should reject anything but a “PERFECT” bill. Republican senators and the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board seem to think that Mr. Trump believes an immigration deal would help President Biden win re‐election.

The main G.O.P. complaint with the deal isn’t that it goes too easy on people crossing the border