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Biden facing mounting criticism from Democrats over handling of border, fearing voter backlash

Border Patrol encounters at the southern border alone jumped 27% from June to July, according to CBP data. The issue has increased in importance to voters across the board, most notably "independents" who the Democrats hope to pull to their side in upcoming elections.

Published: September 6, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: September 7, 2023 6:08pm

President Joe Biden is facing mounting criticism from his own party over his administration's handling of border security.

Border Patrol encounters of migrants at the southern border alone jumped 27% from June to July, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data. A Washington Post report on preliminary CBP data from August revealed a 30% jump in encounters from July to August, calling it "an all-time high." 

A Gallup poll from February showed that even before this recent spike in encounters, "the percentage of Democrats dissatisfied and desiring less immigration was nearly nonexistent in 2021, at 2%, before rising to 11% last year and 19% now." Independents, who are most likely to be the most targeted voters in upcoming elections, expressed dissatisfaction with the Biden administration's handling of the border crisis, "doubling since 2021, rising from 19% at that time to 36% today," the poll said.

The voters' increasing concern about the immigration crisis reflected in the poll has not been lost on Democratic lawmakers.

Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.), who narrowly won election in New York’s 19th District, called on Biden to take charge of the deteriorating situation at the border.

"The No. 1 thing I learned as an Army officer: When in charge, take charge," Ryan said. "We are in a crisis, the president is in charge, and he and his team need to take charge."

Josh Riley, a New York Democratic congressional candidate, said Biden's "aloofness" on the border issue is “offensive," calling it a "federal problem" that requires a federal response. "I think President Biden needs to get his act together and help solve it," he said. His campaign website says that "Our immigration system is completely broken, and it needs to be fixed in a way that upholds both the law and our values."

The Biden administration has dispatched the use of a smartphone application called CBP One to allow migrants to schedule appointments with U.S. officials for their asylum claims. Immigration law experts attribute much of the rise in border arrivals to the ease of making asylum appointments on the app. Unless it is determined that the migrant poses a public safety or national security threat under Title 8, the migrant is released and given a notice to appear in court at a later date.

Critics argue that few immigrants, once released, actually show up for their court date. Although the numbers vary wildly, the most generous figure cited by the Washington Post was that "44 percent of migrants who were not in custody failed to show up for their court proceedings."

The Biden administration's failure to resolve the border crisis, despite placing Vice President Kamala Harris in a leadership position on the issue, hangs gloomily over Democrats' electoral concerns. Democrats in Arizona, including Sen. Mark Kelly, have been openly critical of Biden's handling of the border. Kelly called the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border a "mess" and said he supports some physical barriers at the border.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who supports New York's status as a "sanctuary city", has argued that the Biden administration isn't doing enough to assist states in handling the influx of migrants it is releasing into U.S. communities around the nation. He has called on Biden to declare a state of emergency as a result of the border crisis.

Raymond Lopez, a Chicago city councilman, wrote a letter to Biden in June calling on his administration to work harder to adjudicate asylum cases. "Currently, many of those processed for asylum have been given hearing dates in 2029."

"It is simply unreasonable to expect cities and states to either directly or indirectly provide for their welfare when the federal government is intentionally drawing out this process," he wrote.

Some Texas Democrats have expressed frustration over Biden's lack of attention to the problems taking place at the border.

“I don’t know why they keep avoiding the border and saying there’s other things, more important things, than visiting the border. If there is a crisis, show up. Just show up,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tx.) said in December when calling for Biden to visit the border.

“Just showing up at the border would send a strong signal to the communities that he’s there, he cares about the border communities. Just show up! It doesn’t take much to just show up at the border,” Cuellar said.

In January, Biden visited El Paso in what was described as a "tightly controlled" southern border visit. He has not returned to the border since that time.

Since then, Cuellar, among others representing southern border states affected by the immigrant influx, has criticized Biden's decision to end Title 42, which is the public health law enforced during the COVID pandemic. Cuellar warned that the crisis at the border could hurt Democrats come election time.

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