Mr. Biden campaigned on returning compassion to the country’s immigration system and undoing the policies of former President Donald J. Trump that significantly limited the number of asylum-seekers the country would consider. That goal has proved difficult to achieve, leaving the White House under fire from the left for not moving aggressively enough to undo Mr. Trump’s legacy even as Republicans accuse Mr. Biden of creating a crisis on the border by suggesting that he will make it easier for many people to get a shot at entering the U.S.
Mr. Biden has laid out a proposal for immigration law changes that includes a path to citizenship for some migrants already in the United States. But there is little hope of passing sweeping changes to the laws through bipartisan negotiation, so Democrats instead hope to use a budget-related legislative process to bypass Republican opposition.
Over the weekend, the administration stepped up enforcement at the southern border, sending more officers to help border officials with the lengthy processing necessary to bring migrants into the country and start making a case that they need asylum, the administration said in its court filing.
To help relieve the backup, immigration officers are bringing more families to family detention centers, using the facilities as temporary shelters. The agency entered into a new contract to add more than 1,200 beds to its family housing capacity.
The number of migrants crossing the southern border between the United States and Mexico exceeded the traditional seasonal spring surge in migration earlier this year, and the pace did not slow with the arrival of the oppressive heat of the summer months. The number of times border officials caught migrants crossing illegally in June was the highest monthly figure since April 2000. And the administration said preliminary figures for July indicate another new high.
Just a few weeks ago, the administration was considering a plan to lift the public health rule for migrant families as early as the end of July and later for single adults, who make up the bulk of the migrants who have been turned away since the beginning of the pandemic. Delaying those plans, possibly through the end of the year, is sure to be welcomed by Republicans who have proposed legislation to maintain the rule for as long as necessary. But doing so also fuels Republican arguments that the southern border is in a state of crisis.
Despite the public health rule, many migrant families have been allowed to enter the United States this year. The administration has been able to enforce the rule in some areas of the border but not others, such as South Texas, in part because of a lack of shelter capacity in Mexico. And some migrant families have also been allowed to enter the country because of special exemptions, including migrants identified as vulnerable by advocacy groups and international organizations.