By Emel Akan
WASHINGTON—President Joe Biden is facing significant backlash from Democratic elected leaders, particularly in northern U.S. cities that are struggling to deal with migrant surges. They accuse the president of not doing enough to curb the influx of illegal immigrants, which is putting enormous strain on their resources.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is the latest Democratic politician to voice strong criticism of the federal response to the crisis. In a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday, Mr. Pritzker said that his state was in an “untenable situation” and urged the president to take “swift action.”
In August, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and business leaders asked President Biden to address the “humanitarian crisis” that has overwhelmed New York City following an influx of over 100,000 illegal immigrants from the southern border.
Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey issued a state of emergency in August in response to the state’s illegal immigrant crisis. In a letter (pdf) to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, she stated that her state has taken action “to address what sadly has been a federal crisis of inaction.”
Officials at the White House are scrambling to respond to these critiques with statements that appear to indicate the administration is making a U-turn on its border policies. Some claim that the recent measures by President Biden are increasingly looking like the policies of the Trump administration.
Before taking the oval office in 2020, President Biden declared, “There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration.”
However, the Biden administration announced this week that it will waive dozens of federal regulations to expedite the construction of a southern border wall in Starr County, Texas, in response to the rapidly growing influx of immigrants.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to defend the move, arguing that the government is following Trump-era laws but still does not believe in the wall’s effectiveness.
“We believe that we need border technology that is modernized and land ports of entry. And that’s what we want to see,” Ms. Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday, adding that the president’s stance on the border wall has not changed.
“He does not believe it is effective. He has been very clear about that.”
She added that the funding for the wall was from a 2019 appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump.
“We asked Congress to reappropriate the funds,” she said. “But they’ve refused, and so now we’re moving forward.”
Biden Trying to Appease Democratic Leaders: Border Experts
The White House is acting in accordance with the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which forbids the President or other government officials from bypassing Congress in making funding decisions. This is not, however, the primary reason why the administration is restarting the construction of the wall, according to Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank.
The decision is clearly “driven by a need to respond to concerns voiced by Democratic-elected officials in northern U.S. cities,” Mr. Arthur told The Epoch Times.
“Barriers will help agents in the apprehension and processing of illegal entrants, but they will do nothing to discourage those migrants improper entries absent a concomitant policy shift—but at least the administration can claim that it is ‘doing something.’”
Mr. Mayorkas announced this week the “immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads” in Starr County, which is part of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector.
Mr. Mayorkas’s recent announcement appears to be an attempt to appease some Democratic mayors, according to a Border Patrol agent who is familiar with that section of the wall.
“We’ve been working for months on Starr County. The Biden administration tried to stop the wall construction, but because of the 2019 act that Trump signed, they were forced to build the wall,” the border official, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
“They didn’t have a choice in the matter. They had to do it anyway, so they made a big deal about it. This is all just a façade.”
According to Mr. Arthur, the wall alone will not resolve the issue if the White House is unwilling to reconsider or reverse “the catch-and-release policies for illegal entrants at the Southwest border that are driving the migrant surge.”
He asserted that this is the only action that could provide real relief to those northern cities.
‘We’re Here Abandoned’
Last month, Mayor Rolando Salinas of Eagle Pass, Texas, a Democrat, criticized President Biden for the border crisis. In an interview with CNN, he complained that the White House had not communicated with him while thousands of illegal immigrants poured into his small city.
“We’re here abandoned. We’re on the border, we’re asking for help. This is unacceptable,” he said.
In a recent letter to the White House, Gov. Pritzker also raised a similar concern, urging that “there be one person in the federal government” who works directly for the president and is in charge of overseeing efforts at the border.
When asked about this request, Ms. Jean-Pierre said, “There are multiple folks” at the White House who have been in contact with governors across the country.
“Look, let’s not forget, we provided a billion dollars to those counties, states, cities who are dealing with this issue,” she said. “It is an issue that’s incredibly important to this president.”
Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.