Biden’s Immigration Policy: A Disturbing Shift to the Right

President Joe Biden’s recent comments and policy moves on immigration have sent shockwaves through communities advocating for humane and compassionate treatment of migrants. This week, Biden’s oscillation between regret and defiance over using the term “illegal” to refer to undocumented individuals during his State of the Union address has underscored a troubling drift towards right-wing immigration policies—a drift that has not gone unnoticed by those fighting for migrant rights.

Biden’s attempt to walk a tightrope—aiming to appease anti-immigrant sentiments while hoping not to alienate his progressive base—has been glaringly evident. His initial expression of regret for using a term widely recognized as offensive and dehumanizing was swiftly countered by a White House clarification that he “absolutely did not apologize” for his choice of words. This back-and-forth not only highlights Biden’s precarious stance on immigration but also mirrors the broader rightward shift of both major political parties in the U.S., with dire implications for migrant communities.

Despite efforts to distance his administration from the extremist policies of his predecessor, Biden’s actions speak louder than words. His proposals and policies increasingly resemble those championed by Republicans, echoing former President Donald Trump’s draconian measures developed by Steven Miller, aimed at detaining, deporting, and denying entry to millions of immigrants. From deploying National Guard troops to expanding open-air detention camps and curtailing the U.S. refugee program, Biden’s approach marks a disturbing continuation of inhumane immigration practices.

In his address, Biden not only invoked harmful rhetoric but also extended an invitation to Trump to collaborate on a funding bill that would bolster immigration enforcement agencies, further entrenching a punitive approach to immigration. This call for bipartisan support for policies that undermine the safety and dignity of asylum seekers starkly contrasts with the urgent need for leadership that champions the rights and well-being of all individuals, regardless of their immigration status.

The narrative of chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border, perpetuated by figures like Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, serves as a smokescreen for the failure of both parties to address the root causes of migration and the genuine needs of the American people. By adopting this narrative, Biden and the Democrats have effectively legitimized a dangerous agenda that sacrifices migrant lives on the altar of political expediency.

Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025, which requests over $26 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection, further solidifies his commitment to a flawed and punitive immigration system. This funding request, surpassing previous years’ allocations, reveals an administration doubling down on a strategy that prioritizes detention and surveillance over compassion and human rights.

Despite initial promises to roll back some of Trump’s most egregious immigration policies, Biden’s administration has faltered, maintaining or even expanding the use of detention, surveillance, and deportation mechanisms that disproportionately affect Black and Brown migrants. The continued reliance on private prisons for ICE detention, the expansion of ICE contracts, and the failure to end the practice of family detention are stark indicators of an administration that, while claiming to advocate for racial equity, enacts policies that perpetuate injustice and suffering.

The recent failure of a supplemental funding bill that sought to provide ICE with an unprecedented budget for detention and surveillance underscores the administration’s willingness to use immigrant communities as bargaining chips in political negotiations. This bill, had it passed, would have expanded the government’s capacity to detain and deport individuals, further entrenching a system that views migrants as threats rather than individuals seeking safety and opportunity.

As Biden signals his openness to implementing parts of the failed bill through executive orders or regulations, the message to immigrant communities is clear: their lives and rights are expendable in the pursuit of political gains. This move away from the promise of a more humane immigration policy towards a continuation of Trump-era restrictions and enforcement underscores a profound betrayal of the values Biden purported to champion.

The community response to these policies has been one of resilience and solidarity. Across the country, people have come together to support migrants bussed from Texas, offering shelter, care, and a network of services. These grassroots efforts, along with calls for the closure of detention centers and an end to border militarization, reflect a powerful counter-narrative to the administration’s policies—a narrative grounded in the belief that migration is a human right and that justice for all cannot be achieved through policies that marginalize and dehumanize.

As Biden’s administration continues its rightward lurch on immigration, the need for persistent, coordinated community pressure has never been greater. The fight for a just and equitable immigration system is intertwined with broader struggles for social justice, demanding that we stand in solidarity with all who seek a world where freedom of movement and the right to thrive are not privileges for the few but rights for all.