Unsurprisingly, the latest action sparked outrage among Democrats, immigration groups and human rights activists, who accused Republicans of treating migrants as “human cargo” to score cheap political points.
Even Biden, who tends to approach immigration carefully, knowing it is a weak spot for his party, lashed out Thursday night during a speech at the Congressional Hispanic Institute’s annual gala, describing the latest actions as “un-American,” ” “reckless” and “just wrong”.
“Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as leverage,” he said. “We have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We are working to make sure it is safe, orderly and humane.”
There is no doubt that the US has a border crisis, with official figures showing that Border Patrol agents recorded 1.9 million encounters with migrants between October 2021 and the end of July, an all-time high.
A recent study conducted by the Missing Migrants Project and published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also identified the US-Mexico border crossing as the world’s deadliest land migration route.
The July study found that there were at least 1,238 migration deaths in America in 2021, and at least 728 of the total deaths occurred along the US-Mexico border.
The most shocking example of the dangers people face trying to enter the country was highlighted in June after 53 people from Mexico and Central America died after being trapped in a sweltering tractor trailer in San Antonio , in what officials described as the deadliest migrant smuggling case in US history.
Biden has become a target because in his first days in office he moved quickly to reverse some of Donald Trump’s most restrictive policies, including halting construction of his predecessor’s $16 billion border wall. Most recently, the Supreme Court gave the administration the go-ahead to end the “stay in Mexico” program and no longer send asylum seekers back across the border while they await a decision on their claims for US protection.
Kamala Harris, whom Biden has put in charge of addressing the root causes of Central American migration, has also been relatively ineffective and has been criticized all week for claiming in an NBC interview that the border is secure.
But while this is far from true, using vulnerable people as political pawns is unedifying, cruel, and a sign of how ugly the political landscape is going to get in the run up to the midterm elections and beyond.
Of course, all sides of politics have done it: During the Trump administration, Democrats often made their way to detention centers to lament the treatment of children “locked in cages” — an emotive reference to children kept in cells walled off with chain -link fencing after being separated from their parents.
But these latest examples smack more of a strategy of “owning the left” and raising the national profiles of the aspiring governors involved, rather than joining forces to come up with workable policies for a long-standing problem.
It’s no secret that DeSantis and Abbott have their sights set on a possible run for president in 2024 — especially if Trump doesn’t emerge as the Republican nominee.
In Texas, Abbott won the praise of conservatives by delivering on a range of promises, from limiting access to abortion, expanding the ability of Texans to bear arms and launching a crowdfunding campaign to build a border wall.
In Florida, DeSantis also has a long list of policies that have made him such a popular figure among party officials — from avoiding mask mandates as the coronavirus spiked, challenging Disney to “woke up” to his state’s so-called “don’t say gay” Laws and setting penalties for big tech companies that deplatform politicians.
Now both governors have something more to add to their resumes, this time on one of the GOP’s key political battlegrounds. In fact, a Gallup poll from earlier this year found that 87 percent of Republicans are dissatisfied with the level of immigration in the U.S. — the highest point in decades.