Nearly 10,000 migrants a day are now crossing the Mexican border into the United States irregularly — more than ever before. Republicans blame the administration of Democratic US President Joe Biden for these conditions and criticize the government's immigration policy. American researcher Johannes Thiem explains what this means for Biden, who is seeking re-election in the fall.
Johannes Thiem is Vice President of the American Research Group at the Berlin Foundation for Science and Politics. His thematic focus is on the domestic political conditions of US foreign policy and America's relationship with transnational organizations.
SRF News: To what extent does Joe Biden's immigration policy differ from that of his predecessor, Donald Trump?
Johannes Thimm: Donald Trump took office with the intention of tightening immigration. And he has taken very restrictive measures. By comparison, Joe Biden has so far handled immigration policy somewhat less. But Biden embraced much of what Trump introduced in the eyes of those who believed he would pursue a more liberal immigration policy.
What specific changes did Biden make?
First, he increased the quota of recognized refugees who could be brought into the United States from areas of real crisis. He also suspended the regulation of repatriation of people at the border after a certain time due to corona regulations.
It must be made very clear that politics is also going on in moderation.
He immediately put an end to the practice of separating families. He has returned to the practice of immigration officials primarily deporting undocumented immigrants from the United States who have committed criminal offenses. So there is less of a search for irregular migrants in the country with the intention of deporting them.
The southern state of Texas sends immigrants on buses and planes to cities in the north — and they're reaching the limit. How much responsibility does the Biden administration bear for the chaotic situation?
The reasons are varied and often beyond the influence of the US government. It has more to do with developments in countries of origin that drive people to flee. This is a major challenge especially for states near the border. It must be made very clear that politics is also going on in moderation.
The terms racist and conspiracy theories are also increasingly used.
Migrants are often sent somewhere with false promises. No cooperation with arrival points. There is no provision for them to be prepared for this. It's basically a cynical ploy by Republicans to harm Democrats on the immigration issue, including election tactics.
Nearly a third of people still trust Joe Biden when it comes to immigration. What options does Biden have to turn public opinion on his side?
Biden's government can only try to show that it has control of the situation through good policies. There is great uncertainty among people when it comes to immigration, a sense of out-of-control: that immigrants will flow uncontrollably into the United States and wreak havoc there.
Many jobs are done with fear.
This opinion is also deliberately pushed by Republicans to hunt votes. Many jobs are done with fear. Immigrants equal criminals. The terms racist and conspiracy theories are also increasingly used.
The interview was conducted by Amir Ali.