“Brutal new reporting” on “How Biden Botched the Border”

Bill Melugin takes note of a news piece in Axios today, which he says contains brutal new reporting on the Biden administration’s dealings with the border and how Biden botched it.

Melugin summarizes the article below:

– Biden exploded w/ rage at his team aboard AF1 on the way to border last year.
– Susan Rice called HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra a “bitch ass”& “idiot”.
– VP Harris’ team made it clear her responsibilities “began and ended” w/ root causes in just the 3 Northern Triangle counties & Mexico, w/ a former Biden admin official saying Harris has been “at best, ineffective”.
– Mayorkas disagreed with Biden’s 100 day halt on deportations.
– Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall displayed inexperience, asked for a memo explaining the difference between refugees & asylum seekers.
– Biden admin has listened to “vocal immigration advocates outside the administration”.
– “The White House generally didn’t want to talk publicly about immigration or the border for much of Biden’s first three years, feeling it would draw attention to a political vulnerability.”
– “Publicly, the White House also initially downplayed jumps in illegal border crossings as normal “ebbs and flows” — even as some internally pushed to acknowledge that the problem was significant.”

The article highlights a combination of infighting, incompetence, and indifference regarding the administration’s handling of the border over the last 3 years.

Here’s more from the article. It’s long so these are my highlights:

Aboard Air Force One en route to tour the southern border in January 2023, President Biden sat at the head of his conference table and exploded with fury.

  • The president lit into his team, which included then-Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon, Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall and other immigration officials. He demanded obscure immigration data points — and vented when his staff didn’t have them handy.

Why it matters: The previously unreported meeting, recounted to Axios by three people familiar with the events, is emblematic of the Biden administration’s struggle with the border crisis during the past three years — infighting, blame-shifting and indecision.

  • Biden’s fury subsided, and aides scrambled for the information he wanted. People in the meeting later told others in frustration that his winding process and irritability were making it more difficult to reach decisions about the border.
  • The White House counters that the meeting was “productive.” Spokesperson Andrew Bates told Axios that “multiple firsthand participants of the meeting refute this description of the tone and outcome” of a conversation on “the specifics of this complex issue.”
  • The rolling chaos along the border has grown to the point that Biden now is embracing immigration policies he ran against in 2020 — such as restricting asylum laws and suggesting he’ll “shut down” the border — as the crisis threatens his re-election.

Reality check: Much of the current crisis is rooted in factors Biden’s team has had little control over — including unprecedented global calamities that have pushed millions of migrants to the U.S., decades of congressional inaction, and the state of key agencies after the Trump administration.

Okay let’s stop here. While the article does have some good reporting in it, this “reality check” is completely stupid. The current border crisis is rooted in the fact that Biden encouraged people to come to the border when he was running for president and then threw open the border on day one in the Oval Office by getting rid of Trump’s border protections. Biden has kept it open since and has done nothing to stop illegal border crossings.

Okay with that out of the way, here’s more of the article. This part is basically “nobody wants the border responsibility” because it doesn’t help them politically:

The crisis grew slowly. Many administration leaders treated the issue like a hot potato because it was politically thankless, several sources in and out of government told Axios.

The idea that no one wanted to “own it” came up repeatedly in interviews about the border crisis. But the problem required a robust and coordinated response at several levels of the federal government.

As the humanitarian conditions at the border have deteriorated and the politics surrounding immigration have become a thorn for Biden, he becomes scratchier when the issue comes up, according to current and former aides.

“There are definite incentives … to not be the person who owns the scary issue with no solutions,” a former government official close to the issue told Axios.

Vice President Kamala Harris and her office made clear to others in the administration that her responsibilities began and ended with the factors driving people to leave Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — the issue Biden had assigned her to examine.

As the migration became more global, Harris’ team remained focused on the Northern Triangle and Mexico.

A former Biden administration senior official told Axios: “She’s been at best ineffective, and at worst sporadically engaged and not seeing it was her responsibility. It’s an opportunity for her, and she didn’t fill the breach.”

Warring ideologies inside the White House and the Democratic Party also slowed decision-making

Some officials wanted policies designed to punish or deter people who crossed the border illegally. Others — including vocal immigration advocates outside the administration — pushed to reform asylum policies and expand legal pathways for migrants to stay in the U.S., sources said.

The White House’s immigration team also saw constant turnover.

As a result, “the strategy was incoherent from the very beginning,” said one former Biden White House official involved in immigration policy.

The internal turmoil led to contradictory actions by Biden’s team.

Biden stopped kicking out asylum seekers under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program, but for years continued to use pandemic-era restrictions known as Title 42 to send asylum seekers back to Mexico.

The administration extended temporary protections for Venezuelans in the U.S. — and weeks later, announced plans to deport Venezuelans for the first time in years.

Biden’s team stopped holding undocumented families in U.S. detention centers — a practice under Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump — in favor of monitoring people using ankle bracelets and other technology.

Then, as conditions worsened, Biden considered restarting the detention program.

There’s a lot more at Axios if you want to continue there.

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