Opinion: Joe Biden Has Done More to Curb Illegal Immigration Than Greg Abbott

Mexico/Texas Border
Mexico/Texas Border Photo by Vince Smith/Flickr
Governor Greg Abbott has spent two years and more than $9 billion deploying the Texas National Guard to the southern border as part of Operation Lone Star. While his actions are of very dubious constitutional legality, he justifies them by claiming he has to combat an invasion of undocumented migrants flooding Texas because of President Joe Biden’s open border policy.

It’s not true. Biden has been a hundred more times effective than Abbott at securing the border despite the governor’s actions.

The idea that Biden has an open border policy is and always has been a complete myth. Prior to the expiration of Title 42—the pandemic era policy of expelling asylum seekers before they could formally seek refuge—the president put into place extremely harsh new rules for asylum seekers. Now, they have to prove they’ve sought asylum in another country they have passed through before coming to the United States.

This policy has led to a remarkable drop in arrests at the border. Since Title 42 expired on May 11, arrests have fallen 70 percent according to the administration’s numbers. The flood of migrants that was expected never appeared, and it’s almost certainly due to new rules of Biden’s making.

This isn’t the only thing that Biden has done to lower illegal immigration. In October, he started a program that would allow migrants from Venezuela to enter the country legally under parole conditions. The program was expanded in January to include people from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua. Once again, Republicans howled that Biden was enabling a flood of foreigners. Several states, including Texas, sued the president.

Instead, the program has prevented an astounding 380,000 migrants from crossing the border illegally. According to the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, people who would otherwise be tempted to cross the border illegally are instead waiting for legal access thanks to Biden’s actions. The program streamlines the asylum process and allows migrants to apply from outside the country.

That’s what Biden has done, but what of Abbott’s military-style occupation of the southern border? How are all the helicopters, infrared scanners, and razor wire in the Rio Grande doing compared to a parole program?

In places where Operation Lone Star has been the most present, illegal crossings are actually up, not down. U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by The Wall Street Journal shows that crossings in 2022 rose 64 percent in Del Rio, where Operation Lone Star was highly active. In the Rio Grande Valley, where Operation Lone Star was not focused, crossings went down 35 percent.

It’s true that arrests are up, but there’s a catch with that. First, many of those arrested are repeat offenders, people who are deported to Mexico and then try again. These make up about a quarter of all arrests.

Second, many arrests amade more than a hundred miles from the border in places like Midland are being counted for Operation Lone Star’s success. These are districts where local government has enthusiastically supported the anti-immigrant policies of Abbott, but they are not meaningfully impacted by undocumented migrants.

Lastly, there is a consistent question of whether Operation Lone Star is breaking the law. Many cases have been thrown out over bias and entrapment.

This has not stopped Abbott from repeatedly declaring Operation Lone Star a success. Multiple fact checkers have found that claims of stopping Mexican cartel members and human trafficking are vastly overshadowed by arrests for minor trespassing and other misdemeanors. Claims of rounding up hundreds of gang members have not been substantiated, and the Texas Department of Public Safety denied record requests from ProPublica and The Marshall Project.

A solid look at the numbers show that Abbott’s grand military show has done only a fraction of the work by the Biden Administration when it comes to slowing illegal immigration. Plus, the parole program has opened up opportunities for many asylum seekers to seek refuge legally without risking a dangerous trek through the borderlands. Ultimately, Operation Lone Star has been far more effective as political theater than as a migration deterrent.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner