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Biden wrestles with tough political choice on border 

President Biden is wrestling with taking executive action on how asylum claims are handled at the southern border, a move that has triggered anger from some Democrats but one in which the White House is under pressure to take action. 

The tougher measures could benefit Biden politically by allowing him to point to actions he’s taken toward border security and show he’s aggressive on the issue. But, while acting on border security could take some of the blame off of him for the influx of migrants against the backdrop of inaction on a bipartisan measure from House Republicans, it could also lead to unrest from his progressive base.

Republicans are poised to keep hitting the president on immigration ahead of November maintaining that he isn’t tough enough on border issues. They will be led by former President Trump, who has declared he would be “closing the border” on day one if elected president.

Strategists say it’s left Biden in a no-win political situation.

“They will do what they think is best with a lousy set of cards dealt to them by Congress. It’s a tough-as-hell decision, but that is the job he has and wants to do again,” said Ivan Zapien, former executive director at the Hispanic Leadership Council of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

For its part, the White House is looking at “a series of policy options” to deal with the situation at the border, a Biden administration official told The Hill. But so far there are no final decisions regarding what additional executive actions, if any, could be taken on an issue that could hurt Biden come November.

“The president rightly sees the chaos at the border as a political liability — only a slim slice of the hard left is comfortable with an overwhelmed asylum system,” said Stewart Verdery, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

Biden is considering acting to restrict migrants’ ability to seek asylum at the border if they came into the U.S. illegally, according to multiple reports.

That move would be a particularly tough decision for the White House because it would likely get hit with legal challenges, considering the law states that any foreign national on U.S. soil has a right to claim asylum. Trump was hit with similar challenges, with his plan to curb asylum claims ultimately struck down.

Biden’s potential executive order on the border would be one way to revive the issue after House Republicans refused to take up the bipartisan border deal, which a group of senators from both parties unveiled earlier this month and the White House endorsed. The White House has consistently hit the House GOP for politicizing the issue instead of passing the deal, while Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) argued it was insufficient — deeming it dead on arrival.

Johnson responded to reports that Biden intends to use his executive authority to secure the border by claiming that Biden “mislead the public” with remarks that Congress had to act on the border.

“Americans have lost faith in this President and won’t be fooled by election year gimmicks that don’t actually secure the border. Nor will they forget that the President created this catastrophe and, until now, has refused to use his executive power to fix it,” the Speaker said in a statement.

The White House responded to Johnson’s comment, saying a consistent theme is the Speaker’s “wildly fluctuating excuses for opposing bipartisan border security legislation.”

Johnson has long demanded border security legislation “only for House Republicans to balk as soon as they saw the strongest bipartisan border deal in modern history and kill it, explicitly citing Donald Trump’s concerns that making America safer would diminish his campaign,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said. 

When Johnson declared the border deal dead on arrival in the House, a number of lawmakers in both parties indicated political calculations were involved, given Trump’s desire to have the upper hand on Biden when it comes to immigration.

But Biden is also taking it from the left, being bashed by progressives who say a potential executive order is reminiscent of Trump’s stricter immigration policies. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said an executive action to restrict migrants seeking asylum “would be an extremely disappointing mistake” and said that Democrats are taking “pages out of Donald Trump and Stephen Miller’s playbook,” referring to the Trump adviser who spearheaded some of his administration’s immigration policies. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responded, “Doing Trump impressions isn’t how we beat Trump” and said “the mere suggestion is outrageous.”

Some strategists, however, said that acting on immigration will show Biden’s leadership strength, despite the pushback. 

“It will not be enough for some, but for others, it will be too much. Over time, it reinforces one of his biggest strengths: He is a leader and is not afraid to make tough decisions and own them,” Zapien said about Biden.

Verdery, the former Bush official who is CEO of Monument Advocacy, advised that Biden needs to follow up with unilateral action after pushing for the deal that didn’t move in the House.

“By endorsing the Senate bill, he walked himself into a policy box canyon that now requires action,” he said. “While I doubt his eventual executive actions will be as draconian as some of the recent headlines – remember in immigration, there’s always a lot of exceptions to general rules – he needs to change the political dynamic with some new measures.”

Source: The Hill

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