President-elect Joe Biden will take office under pressure to rescind 400 executive actions President Donald Trump has used to tighten the U.S. immigration system. Biden will start in a bind that could make such changes difficult to accomplish in short order, the Washington Post reports. Biden will inherit an enforcement system cracking under the strains of the pandemic, a crippling immigration court backlog and a demoralized Homeland Security workforce. At the U.S.-Mexico border, tens of thousands of migrants with pending asylum claims are waiting to enter the U.S., some in squalid tent cities. Border agents have been making 2,000 arrests daily as the economic fallout from the pandemic and devastating hurricanes in Central America threaten to trigger a new wave of illegal migration.
The emergency policies Trump has used to contain migration pressures are among those Biden has pledged to rescind, leaving Homeland Security officials warning of the potential for a new crisis. Theresa Cardinal Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center says, “Biden will have to say: We intend to do this, but we have to do it well so that we don’t re-create horrid conditions at the border. … I think people will give him a little bit of slack, but not for too long.” The Biden campaign’s immigration proposals are loaded with wish-list items of immigration advocates and Democratic activists. Biden plans a task force to improve coordination among federal agencies along the border. How he would approach another mass influx of asylum-seeking families remains an open question. Rodolfo Karisch, retired chief of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector in South Texas, said, “We still have COVID out there, so are we simply going to want to admit people who potentially have COVID into a country that already has high numbers?” Karisch’s advice to the new administration: “Proceed cautiously.”