Whiplash: Biden’s latest immigration moves court blowback from the Left

Whiplash: Biden’s latest immigration moves court blowback from the Left

October 10, 2023 04:00 AM

President Joe Biden is now taking heat from both sides over immigration.

After getting bashed by Republicans for more than two years amid record illegal border crossings, the Biden administration has taken two actions seen as a pivot to the right. Both of those moves have already led to blowback, this time from the Left.


“A wall does nothing to deter people who are fleeing poverty and violence from coming to the United States,” progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said. “You do not risk your life or your children’s lives going through the Darien Gap or traversing hundreds of miles of desert if you have any other options. Walls only serve to push migrants into more remote areas, increasing their chances of death. It is a cruel policy.”

AOC’s post came amid news that Biden’s Department of Homeland Security would build 20 new miles of southern border wall, in direct violation of his 2020 campaign pledge to build “not another foot.” Biden promised that he was required by law to make the move and said he still felt that border walls were not an effective policy.

In isolation, that may have been the end of it. But the Biden administration then made a second move, this time to start deporting Venezuelan illegal immigrants via “repatriation” flights back to their home country. Those deportations are expected to begin “very soon, in the next few days,” one official said, and would include a significant number of commercial flights.

Public polling indicates Biden needed to make moves in the immigration space. A Marquette poll found that 52% of voters thought former President Donald Trump was better on immigration, compared to just 28% who preferred Biden. And an AP VoteCast poll found that even 61% of Democrats said they wanted stronger enforcement at the border, as did two-thirds of Latino or Hispanic voters.

But any moves toward more aggressive border enforcement risk pushback from progressives.

Lora Ries, a border security expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, has said that Biden decided early on that he’d rather get beaten up by the Right over immigration than the Left.

As the AOC letter shows, criticisms are now starting to come from the Left. She was joined in that criticism by Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL).

“Building a border wall is equivalent to sticking our heads in the sand,” Frost said. “To expand the border wall would be to continue the harmful, despicable immigration practices of the previous administration.”

Joe Biden,Maxwell Frost
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-FL) during an event about gun safety on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Frost and Ocasio-Cortez are the two youngest members of Congress, aged 26 and 33, respectively.

Ries isn’t convinced the Biden administration has in fact made a pivot on immigration, predicting DHS will slow-walk the construction of any new border wall and saying the flights are coming too late and on too small of a scale. She describes AOC’s statement as hypocritical.

“She can say her elitist remarks, but I’m pretty confident she felt better once Nancy Pelosi put that fence up around Congress after Jan. 6,” Ries said. “It’s complete hypocrisy.”

The White House itself has tried to downplay both the new border wall construction and the deportation flights, seeming almost embarrassed about the wall news.

“These funds were appropriated in fiscal 2019 under Republican leadership,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week. “We believe there are better, more effective ways of moving forward to secure our border, and we have continuously asked for Congress to act.”

National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said he thought border funding was important but should not be tied to Ukraine funding as some Republicans want.

For now, Biden may have to risk taking heat from progressives because he’s getting so much on the other side from rank-and-file Democrats. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been particularly aggressive, traveling to Central and South America to advise immigrants not to come to his city. But the Democratic governors of New York, Illinois, and New Jersey have also asked for help stemming the tide of immigration.


Of course, the right is still working to drive up pressure as well. House speaker candidate Jim Jordan (R-OH) has promised he won’t budge on immigration if he gets the gavel. GOPers have warned that lax border security could eventually even lead to an atrocity.

“I think that there is a good bet that somebody that’s come across that [southern] border will commit an act of terrorism,” Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) told the Washington Examiner on Sept. 11. “9/11 was in part an immigration issue. A lot of these guys should not have been in the country.”