The Media Said Biden Closed the Southern Border. Then Things Got Worse.

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December 21, 2023

A few months ago, the media declared that President Joe Biden had gotten the crisis at America's southern border under control.

They may have declared victory a bit prematurely.

Every day, Customs and Border Protection agents intercept record numbers of migrants trying to cross the border, and scores more manage to evade detection. Even veteran border agents are shocked at the sheer scope of these crossings, calling the present border surge the worst they've ever seen.

Today, even members of Biden's own party are declaring a crisis at the southern border:

Flashback: This must all come as a shock to the mainstream media, who claimed just a few months ago that Biden had the border under control.

The press worked to explain how the Biden administration was "ready" for the coming surge, with the New York Times pointing to an "arsenal of strategies to help avoid a chaotic situation on the border." Other outlets parroted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who declared "the border was closed."

CNN, May 11: "Harris Faces Critical Test on Migration Effort When Title 42 Ends":

As President Joe Biden’s approach to migration at the US-Mexico border confronts its most critical test yet when Title 42 expires, his No. 2, Kamala Harris, will face what’s likely to be her own perception problem. ...

But Harris’ staff and allies counter that the real work she and her office are doing in the Northern Triangle countries – and not the border – is making a difference. ...

Publicly, the vice president’s office has called the current downward trend [of migrant encounters] "encouraging," and privately, aides cite investments in the region under Harris’ guidance as one of many factors for the drop.

ABC News, May 10: "Biden Administration Officials Preview Plans For End of Title 42":

Amid concerns over a looming immigration surge at the southern U.S. border, Biden administration officials have revealed what they described as a "comprehensive, multi-agency, multi-country plan" to "humanely manage the border" when a Trump-era policy known as Title 42 lifts this week. ...

Stating that they had been preparing for the end of Title 42 for over a year, the officials sought to showcase that readiness with statistics.

Axios, Apr. 6: "Biden's Immigration Policies to be Tested When Title 42 Ends Next Month":

• Still, some of Biden's short-term efforts to slow illegal border crossings have worked. Border Patrol arrests fell drastically in the first two months of the year after new policies were rolled out providing temporary, legal pathways into the U.S. coupled with rapid expulsion for Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians who illegally cross the border.

• It's a trend that officials and proponents have pointed to as proof that offering more legal pathways works — that people only cross the border illegally when they feel it is their only option.

When crossings temporarily dipped in September, the press spiked the football. In a segment headlined "Crisis Averted?" CNN's Abby Phillip said the situation at the border was "Calm, not chaos" because of "tougher immigration policies now than before."  Her colleague at the border, Polo Sandoval, agreed, adding that "those policies could be a factor in all this."

Even when the Biden administration claimed it wasn't taking a victory lap, Politico was there to celebrate the "fiasco that never happened."

Other outlets followed suit:

Roll Call, June 21: "Decrease in Border Crossings Hasn’t Slowed Republican Criticism":

A reported decline in unauthorized border crossings in the month since pandemic-era asylum restrictions expired has done little to shield the Biden administration from Republican attacks over its border policies. ...

John Sandweg, who previously served as top lawyer at DHS and acting chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Obama administration, described the current landscape at the border as a "success story" for the Biden administration.

NBC News, June 20: "Biden Administration Says New Immigration Policy Has Slashed The Number of Migrants Who Can Claim Asylum at The Border":

The Biden administration’s new immigration policy has drastically reduced the number of migrants allowed to apply for asylum at the southern border, according to a recent court filing by the administration, sparking backlash from advocates.

Washington Monthly. May 18: "Republicans Want to Impeach Mayorkas. How About Giving Him a Medal?"

And yet when "Title 42"—the Trump administration policy that used the COVID-19 pandemic to allow the immediate removal of asylum-seekers from American soil without due process—ended last week, the surge Sinema and others dreaded did not materialize. Why? Because Mayorkas, backed up by President Joe Biden, executed a multi-faceted strategy, developed for months, to both dissuade haphazard border-crossings and encourage orderly migration.

Reuters, May 15: "Migrant Crossings Drop at U.S.-Mexico Border After Title 42 Expires":

Migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border have unexpectedly fallen, not risen, since Title 42 curbs expired and reinstating criminal penalties for illegal entry is likely the biggest reason, the Biden administration said on Sunday.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said border patrol agents have seen a 50% drop in the number of migrants crossing the border since Thursday, when President Joe Biden's administration shifted to a sweeping new asylum regulation meant to deter illegal crossings.

As the border surge reaches new heights, the media have made one adjustment to their coverage. Now, rather than cheering Biden's victory, they're simply blaming Republicans for his problems: