Politics Biden Confronts Border Surge With Key Immigration Jobs Unfilled
Biden to propose $2 trillion infrastructure, jobs plan funded by corporate tax hike
The White House is comparing President Joe Biden's infrastructure proposal to the construction of interstate highways and the Space Race.The White House is billing the proposal, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, as a domestic investment not seen in the U.S. since the construction of the interstate highways in the 1950s and the Space Race a decade later.
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden is confronting an influx of migrants at the southern U.S. border without permanent leaders at key agencies that oversee immigration enforcement and shelters, threatening to hamper the administration’s response to a growing crisis.
Biden has yet to nominate a commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, which apprehends migrants attempting to illegally cross the border and controls ports of entry. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the office that runs shelters for children and teens arriving without parents, also lacks a nominee.
AP-NORC poll: Border woes dent Biden approval on immigration
WASHINGTON (AP) — More Americans disapprove than approve of how President Joe Biden is handling waves of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, and approval of his efforts on larger immigration policy falls short of other top issues — suggesting it could be a weak point for the new administration. A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also shows that solving the problem of young people at the border is among Americans' highest immigration priorities: 59% say providing safe treatment of unaccompanied children when they are apprehended should be a high priority, and 65% say the same about reuniting families
The president also hasn’t named permanent leaders for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, two agencies that will implement new visa and enforcement measures that are core components of Biden’s pledge to create a more humane and welcoming immigration system. Immigration services also administers the naturalization system.
The administration’s handling of surging numbers of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. GOP lawmakers have blamed Biden, saying his reversal of former President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies have encouraged more border crossings, a charge the administration rejects. Democrats have objected to Biden’s use of an emergency public-health order to expel most migrants arriving at the border.
Biden releases breakdown of what needs fixing for infrastructure plan
Republicans slammed President Joe Biden's $2.7 trillion infrastructure plan as a 'dog's breakfast of slush funds' for Democrats as White House releases state-by-state breakdown of what needs fixing.Biden will host four GOP lawmakers - along with four Democratic ones - on Monday to discuss his massive infrastructure plan, which Republicans have criticized for containing more than traditional infrastructure projects.
U.S. border patrol officers process migrants in Roma, Texas in March.
Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
“The one thing about having political leadership -- Senate-confirmed, high-level political leadership -- is the heft,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “Having that ability to command an organization, especially if you’re responding to a crisis, is important.”
With acting officials in charge, it is more difficult to get buy-in from rank-and-file employees on policy changes, according to Brown, a former DHS official, as well as other people who previously worked at the department. Acting officials also have less clout than confirmed leaders to get a response from the White House about possible concerns from agency workers about policies, they said.
Biden bets that he can change how America thinks about migration
The president is facing a political pinch over the border. His solution for it: more nuance.They don’t just want to push back on their critics, they want to change the very way Americans view migration.
‘Fair and Humane’
Biden last month put Kamala Harris in charge of overseeing the administration’s response to the border crisis, giving the vice president her first major assignment since taking office. She’s leading a diplomatic effort to address root causes of migration from Central American countries. The State Department also named Ricardo Zúñiga as a special envoy to the region.
It’s not unprecedented for immigration-related agencies to lack confirmed leaders less than 100 days into a president’s term. But former government officials say it’s yet another hurdle facing Biden at a pivotal moment.
The lack of permanent leadership has also caused Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to take on more tasks that agency heads might otherwise handle, according to another former DHS official who requested anonymity to candidly discuss internal dynamics.
A White House official, who requested anonymity to discuss the nomination process, said nominees to fill vacancies at immigration-related agencies are expected to be announced in the weeks and months ahead. The official denied that the lack of Senate-confirmed leaders at key agencies is preventing Biden from implementing policies designed to stem the flow of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Ted Cruz Mocks Kamala Harris for Going to a Bakery and Not the Border
The vice president visited the bakery in Chicago on her way to a COVID-19 vaccination site to discuss matters related to the pandemic.Cruz tweeted the word priorities above an article that describes White House press secretary Jen Psaki defending Harris' Chicago visit during a press briefing.
“As we work to fill key appointments the Biden Administration is simultaneously working closely with career officials across the inter-agency to re-build an immigration system dismantled after four years of neglect and move President Biden’s fair and humane immigration agenda forward,” said White House spokesman Vedant Patel.
Biden has been put on the defensive over his handling of the skyrocketing number of migrants arriving at the border, which includes record numbers of unaccompanied minors that have strained the government’s ability to care for them.
U.S. authorities apprehended more than 170,000 migrants in March, the highest monthly total in the last 15 years. The figures belie the White House’s assertions that the spike is merely a seasonal increase no different than prior years. White House officials say most of the migrants are single adults who are immediately expelled under a public-health order intended to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Still, the situation has become a political vulnerability for Biden even as he has received high marks from the public on the pandemic and the economy. Less than a quarter of Americans approve of the president’s handling of unaccompanied minors at the border and 56% disapprove of his handling of immigration broadly, according to anreleased this week.
Biden is thinking about building that wall — and that's a good thing
He is reportedly considering a return to construction of the southern border wall in order to fill in gaps.On Jan. 20, 2021, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation terminating Trump's declaration and stopping the border wall construction it had funded. Biden's proclamation says, it "shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall.
Beds for Kids
Finding enough bed space to house the unaccompanied minors is one of the most immediate challenges facing Biden. Children and teens apprehended without parents are required by law to be transferred within 72 hours from CBP custody to HHS housing. However, thousands have stayed in cramped holding facilities for longer due to lack of shelter space that has already been shrunk by pandemic-related space restrictions.
The CBP commissioner would typically play a leading role in coordinating logistics of moving children from CBP facilities to HHS sites in conjunction with the health department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, which runs the shelters. In lieu of a confirmed commissioner, Mayorkas’s office has stepped in to help lead the logistical efforts, according to the former DHS official.
The White House official said the administration has added beds for child migrants by opening or planning nine new shelters and emergency intake sites since Biden took office, even without confirmed leaders in place at immigration agencies. The official added that having confirmed leaders wouldn’t necessarily change the administration’s policy toward child migrants.
Cindy Huang last month was named director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a position that doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Her supervisor is JooYeun Chang, who is acting assistant secretary of the HHS Administration for Children and Families.
Why Biden is making more progress on economic than social issues
The magnitude of the economic proposals that President Joe Biden may pass through Congress this year is drawing legitimate comparisons to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society.But Biden simultaneously faces the prospect that almost all of his legislative initiatives revolving around social, cultural and racial equity issues, from immigration to gun control and LGBTQ rights, could die in the Senate.
The senior CBP official carrying out the commissioner’s duties is Troy Miller, who formerly led operations at the agency’s New York field office.
The administration has also installed senior political advisers at the Department of Homeland Security, including chiefs of staff at the immigration agencies and headquarters, who do not require Senate confirmation.
Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Services, said the Biden administration accelerated agency appointments during the transition because it foresaw a slow Senate confirmation process. While lower-ranking political officials can help guide the policy process, they can’t command the agencies or sign orders.
Biden has 29 Senate-confirmed officials in place out of 1,200 posts he must fill, four more than Trump but two dozen less than Barack Obama had at the same point in their presidencies, according to the public service group.
John Sandweg, former acting ICE director under Obama, praised the current crop of acting officials leading CBP, ICE and USCIS and said they’re capable of implementing Biden’s policies. But he said if rank-and-file employees raise concerns about a policy, the White House is more likely to treat them seriously if conveyed by a permanent official. And agency workers are more likely to see a confirmed leader as speaking for the administration than an acting one.
“That’s the main thing, is the trust factor on both sides,” he said.
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