Bloomberg Opinion — After years of chaos at the US’s southern border, the government says that illegal crossings have fallen more than 40% in recent months. These figures suggest that border policies recently introduced by President Joe Biden’s administration are starting to deliver results. It’s regrettable that politicians in both parties are trying to undermine this progress before it’s barely begun.
Since late last year, the administration has employed a carrot-and-stick strategy to contain the surge of migrants attempting to enter the country. It launched a program for migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti, allowing as many as 30,000 a month to apply for temporary visas before reaching the border. Under the program, known as humanitarian parole, applicants who have a sponsor, pass background checks and meet other requirements can work in the US for two years while their asylum claims are adjudicated. Border crossers who attempt to circumvent the process are expelled to Mexico, which had previously refused to accept deportees from the four nations covered by the program.
Early results have been promising. Between December and January, Customs and Border Protection encounters between ports of entry dropped from 221,675 to 128,410 — the lowest figure in two years — with evidence of continued declines in February. Those numbers may well fall even further, due to a new rule announced last week that denies migrants the ability to request asylum without first applying in a country they pass through on the way to the US. Set to take effect in May, the rule adds to Title 42 — the policy used by the government to turn away some asylum seekers during the pandemic — by imposing criminal penalties for illegal reentry once initial admission has been denied.
While it’s too soon to declare the border secure, the administration deserves credit for taking steps to correct past failures. Yet far from working to build on these improvements, partisans on both sides are doing the opposite. Twenty GOP attorneys general, including from border states most affected by illegal immigration, have filed suit to try to overturn the administration’s parole plan, claiming it violates limits on executive authority imposed by Congress. Several Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have denounced the proposed third-country asylum transit rule, accusing Biden of reviving his predecessor’s zero-tolerance immigration policies.
This obstructionism is misguided. America’s immigration system requires comprehensive reform to fill labor shortages; attract more high-skilled workers; and provide a fair, efficient asylum process for migrants genuinely fleeing persecution. Building public support for such policies, however, is impossible without more aggressive measures to deter unlawful entry — which too many progressives continue to oppose. At the same time, conservatives should recognize that prudent efforts to increase legal immigration can help ease pressure on the border and stem the illegal flow. The attacks by elected Republican officials on Biden’s parole program, which appears to have significantly reduced the number of illegal border crosses, betrays more interest in continued chaos than practical solutions.
The underlying issues driving the migration crisis — namely, the movement of large numbers of people from across the Western hemisphere seeking to enter the US — won’t be solved overnight, but the administration’s new approach is a step toward a more rational, orderly system. Leaders from both sides should give it a fair chance to work.
The Editors are members of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board