Biden Tries to Flip the Politics of Immigration

If President Biden moves ahead with a plan to block people who illegally cross into the United States from claiming asylum, it is likely to face a swift legal challenge, much the way an effort by his predecessor in 2018 was blocked by the courts.

Politically, such a setback may not even matter.

For Mr. Biden, simply issuing an executive action just before his State of the Union address on March 7 could bolster his re-election campaign by demonstrating that he is unilaterally trying to secure the border over Republican opposition.

The president’s aides have seized on the decision by Republican lawmakers last month to kill a bipartisan border measure when polls show Americans are deeply concerned about the number of people crossing from Mexico after fleeing gangs, torture and economic distress in Central and South America.

“Folks, doing nothing is not an option,” Mr. Biden told the nation’s governors on Friday during a meeting at the White House, suggesting that they pressure lawmakers to revive the border bill in the days ahead.

But if they do not, Mr. Biden is betting that he can appeal to voters who are concerned about immigration by invoking his executive authority to show that he is willing, in his own words, to “shut down the border” amid a surge in migration.

The plan under consideration would mirror the bipartisan bill that congressional Republicans thwarted. But even the White House acknowledges that executive action — even if it survived legal challenges — could not provide the sort of money and resources for controlling the border that Mr. Biden had wanted Congress to approve.

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