Joe Biden: The border chaos could cost him the presidency

If the USA were to elect its president today, Donald Trump would win. What is currently causing Joe Biden's undoing is a uniquely American emotion: the fear of a stranger knocking on his own front door. And above all, how many.

There's something old-fashioned about Americans hunched over a Budweiser arguing over immigration policy in 2024. Isn't the world these days revolving around inflation, the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and even the culture war?

According to polls, immigration the issue in this year's presidential race.

Trump and his court blame the Biden government for the record number of migrants, with hundreds of thousands crossing the border each month. The Democrats, for their part, accuse the conservatives of abusing the border dispute as political leverage. In other words: Whoever wins sovereignty over the border may get hold of the keys to the White House.

Donald Trump, the borderline

Donald Trump has a schizophrenic relationship with borders. He is deaf to the limits of what can be said. The borders of the USA are sacred to him. For good reason. For those who are closest to themselves, distance from others is the greatest asset. Remember: There was no glittering skyscraper in Manhattan, not oneexclusive golf club in Florida, but a wall to Mexico that became Trump's showpiece property. The neighbor did not send “his best”, but rather drug dealers and rapists, he explained during the 2016 election campaign. Some of them were “not people” but “animals”, he said at a campaign event in Ohio last week.

This “us versus them” rhetoric remains Trump’s leitmotif to this day. Only he, the strong man, can protect the country from whatever evil is coming. Even if Trump's own vest is no longer anything but eggshell white, the self-proclaimed messiah blames his archenemy Joe Biden for this threat.

Mission Opposite: Joe Biden's attempt to undo his predecessor

It's true: Never before have so many people moved to the USA. In December alone, 250,000 tried it, and the trend is falling. The numbers on how many migrants have crossed US borders illegally since Biden took over the White House are stark. The conservative broadcaster “Fox News” reports more than seven million – without deviating too much from left-wing competing media.

What the “Make America Great Again” crowd likes to ignore is that the problem began under Trump. The numbers have been skyrocketing for years – until the corona pandemic temporarily solved the matter. At that time, the Trump administration reached deep into its bag of tricks. Thanks to the obscure “Title 42” rule, federal authorities could deny entry to migrants if there was a risk of them introducing disease. Because Title 42 comes from health law rather than immigration, authorities were able to deport people within hours, depending on their origin. A solid tool that Biden also made use of until the rule expired in May 2023.

That's not to say that Democrats are completely innocent of the mess. When Democrat Biden took over in 2021, his first reflex was to liberally brush over every patch of orange. The Trump era should not only be undone, but ideally reversed. “We have reversed so many of Trump’s immigration actions that it would take a very long time to list them,” Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s homeland security secretary, said at the time.

The Democrats not only stopped the construction of the wall, but also decided that migrants no longer have to wait in Mexico until their status is clarified. In addition, gang violence was now considered a legitimate reason for escape. However, the argument is so flexible that the courts, which are already massively underfunded, are increasingly drowning in asylum applications. To date, millions of cases are still waiting to be processed.

Immigration is an economic engine

That's also true: The USA is the number 1 country for immigration. Although the US population makes up around five percent of the world's population, almost a fifth of all immigrants live here. But is it as bad as right-wing agitators would have you believe? No.

The unemployment rate is currently at a moderate 3.9 percent (one of Biden's successes that is not popular with voters). But waiters, cleaners, nurses and gardeners are primarily needed. In other words: positions that are usually filled by immigrants. These are “probably a reason why the economy grew so strongly last year,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told CNBC. Still, fear is more widespread than ever – four in ten Americans now believe that foreigners are stealing their jobs.

Experts are certain that it would no longer be possible without the generally young workforce, as native Americans are getting older and older and are having fewer and fewer children. In the end, it is not without a certain irony that a country made up of 99 percent immigrants and their descendants is afraid of strangers. It's a good thing that the natives once didn't campaign when the “Mayflower” appeared on the horizon with the Pilgrim Fathers.

The bottom line is that immigration has “aen net benefit for the economy,” summarizes analyst Jack Malde according to CNBC. According to a survey commissioned by “Bloomberg”, 64 percent of US citizens are convinced that immigration per se harms the economy. They are wrong, yes. But they just believe it. And Trump has become a master at forming perceived facts out of false beliefs.

Biden's about-face

According to the polling institute “Gallup”, for 28 percent of voters, the chaos at the border is the most important and therefore possibly decisive election campaign issue. Biden has no choice but to flee forward. He has to beat Trump on his own turf.

Most recently, the 81-year-old took a big step to the right. He had offered the Republicans to tighten asylum laws, pump more money into border protection and even held out the prospect of mass deportations. In return, they should give up their months-long blockade of desperately needed aid to Ukraine. The right-wingers had held them as political hostages in order to live out their border fantasies. In fact, not all Republican demands are isolationist populism. But Biden is quickly reaching his limits. Accommodating the conservatives too much would not only make him look weak, but could also annoy his core voters.

Biden's compromise ultimately failed due to the lack of compromise in modern US politics. “I'm told that my predecessor called members of Congress in the Senate to urge them to block the bill,” an uncharacteristically belligerent Biden said in his State of the Union address in early March. His only chance is to turn the tables. Biden must make it clear to undecided voters that it is actually Trump who is standing in the way of a solution. However, it is well known that one of Biden's greatest weaknesses is selling his strengths.

In hardly any other area do voters have as little confidence in the incumbent as in migration policy. As the Center for Immigration Studies reports, the issue of immigration was four times more important among undecided voters than among Democratic voters. But in November it's exactly the former that counts. As always, the race for the White House will be decided in the so-called swing states – states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan that are not clearly in Democratic or Republican hands. According to polls, if elected today, Trump would win in all swing states. His “Mi Casa es mi Casa” demeanor is simply more impressive.

Sources: “New York Times”; “Council on Foreign Relations”; “Center for Immigration Studies”; Economist, AP; CNBC; “Brookings Institute”; “Foreign Policy in Focus”; “Financial Review”; “Washington Post”