Members Only | January 10, 2023 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Biden plans to beat up on brown people to get reelected
A signature trait of Democratic presidents.
Joe Biden pissed me off. The White House announced Thursday an expansion of the criminal former president’s lawless border program. Called Title 42, it bypasses federal law to expel asylum-seekers faster to “protect public health.” Biden is the same president, I will remind you, who said the pandemic is over.
The president’s program allows in more migrants from designated countries, such as Nicaragua and Venezuela. They must, however, have “financial sponsors.” According to the Post, “migrants accepted through the ‘parole program’ will be authorized to live and work in the United States for a two-year period, but those who cross illegally … after Thursday’s announcement will be ineligible, officials said.”
Anyone crossing the border “illegally” gets the boot.
Even people who legally ask for asylum.
Biden’s announcement is a betrayal of trust. There’s no other way of putting it. Immigrants are part of the Democrats’ core identity. Before the announcement, the administration had been trying to reverse Donald Trump’s border program. The covid pandemic is (not over but) weaker than it was during its zenith. To now justify booting out asylum-seekers, the administration must pretend that it’s still 2020.
GOP attorneys general from border and non-border states sued to keep Title 42 in place. Their case is pending review by the US Supreme Court – and that’s where things stand. Even as the administration defends in court Biden’s decision to end Title 42, he expands it.
I’m mad, but not surprised.
The president has played both sides of the issue since the beginning. As the Department of Justice defended Biden’s decision to close out Title 42, the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has “ruthlessly continued to use Trump-era policies to keep turning back asylum-seekers,” wrote journalist James North for The New Republic.
This, North argues, is why “immigration,” and all the bullshit whirling around it in the rightwing mindscape, had virtually no effect on the outcome of this year’s congressional elections. According to Pew, “immigration” did not break the top 10 issues on voters’ minds.
Evidently, that’s what the president thinks.
If it worked for the midterms, it’ll work for 2024.
There’s another thing we can’t ignore.
It’s the hunger among House Republicans to impeach Biden for, well, pretty much any reason. The key is making the reason plausible.
There’s the rub.
The president would have taken a political risk if he’d decided to let things stand as they are – with Title 42 pending in the high court. The rightwingers would turn up the volume. The press corps would likely report the “border crisis” from the GOP’s view. From such conditions could arise a plausible rationale for impeaching Biden.
The president seems to have gamed out that scenario. Hence, last week’s announcement about “cracking down” on “illegal” border crossings. (Again, crossing the border to ask for asylum is legal. It’s the Biden administration, you could argue, that’s breaking the law by refusing to let asylum-seekers exercise rights established by law.)
Biden has no fear of removal. The Senate would never permit it. What he fears is the deafening din generated by impeachment hearings, or perhaps an impeachment trial, as well as by breathless coverage of both by the newsspeakers before November 5, 2024.
Trump’s first impeachment for extorting a foreign leader into a conspiracy to sabotage Biden’s 2020 campaign almost certainly hurt his chances at winning reelection. It’s reasonable to think that if impeachment hurt Trump, it could hurt Biden, too, though the former was completely justified, the latter completely rationalized.
This is probably what House Republicans are thinking (if the word “thinking” can be said of “conservative” anarchists-in-all-but-name). Their cynicism is bone-deep. They believe the Democrats impeached Trump, not because of actual high crimes, but because they wanted to wound him before 2020. For the Republicans, impeachment isn’t about accountability. It’s about crushing your enemy’s good name.
Biden can’t stop them from impeaching him. All it takes is a House majority. The Republicans have the majority. But Biden can complicate their search for a plausible rationale. The Republicans are already looking to the southern border. They are coordinating efforts to manufacture a reasonable pretext. Biden, by curtailing the legal right to seek asylum, is preemptively undermining those efforts.
The end will be familiar.
The Republicans enjoy the advantages of the white-power status quo. In accusing the president of dereliction of duty, they also accuse him and his party of being the party of Black and brown people standing against virtuous, hard-working middle-American whitevolk.
To prove otherwise, Biden is doing what Democratic presidents have done since at least Bill Clinton’s time – in this case, beating up on brown people to demonstrate that the Democrats are not the party of brown people and, more importantly, not a party against “real Americans.”
Obama did something similar. His administration deported record numbers of unauthorized migrants. By showing “good faith,” which is to say, by beating up on brown people, the former president hoped the Republicans would bargain over comprehensive immigration reform. They didn’t, of course. The only result was lots and lots of suffering.
That’s where this ends.
Not with a faked impeachment. Not with a presidential election.
But as most things political end.
With the suffering of the weak and powerless.
That’s worth getting pissed about.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.