WATCH: Biden Convinced Media He Was 'Powerless' To Fix Border Crisis. Then He Changed His Mind.

February 23, 2024

The Biden administration let it be known on Thursday that the president is considering taking executive action to address the crisis at the southern border. News outlets appeared impressed.

Axios called the leaked White House plan to limit asylum claims President Joe "Biden's Bold and Risky Border Move." Politico declared it a "sweeping new approach." The New York Times put four reporters on the story.

It was an abrupt pivot for the mainstream media, which have long repeated Biden and his Democratic allies' claims that he is all but powerless to slow the unprecedented flood of migrants into the United States.

FLASHBACK: After congressional Republicans earlier this month killed a Democrat-backed border bill, the White House denied GOP claims that the president already has the power to deal with the crisis.

"Every day between now and November, the American people are going to know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends," Biden said.

The media rushed to prove him right:

"House Speaker Johnson Insists Biden Can Close the Border With an Executive Order," NPR, Feb. 12:

I posed this question to a number of immigration experts, and the answer I came away with is that it is way too simple to think that any president can just wave a magic wand and suddenly seal off the country's borders.

"Why the Border Is Such an Impossible Political Issue," Washington Post, Feb. 7:

Unless something fundamental changes politically—especially on the right, which has refused to make any legislative changes to the border other than build a wall—immigration will continue to be one of the most impossible issues for Washington.

"GOP Says Biden Has All the Power He Needs To Control the Border. The Reality Is Far More Complicated," Associated Press, Feb. 6.

"Why Biden Can’t Easily 'Shut Down the Border,'" Forbes, Jan. 31:

Former President Donald Trump amped up his campaign Wednesday against border legislation being negotiated in Congress, claiming President Joe Biden has the immediate authority to shut down the border amid a surge in migrant crossings—but closing the border would prove legally and practically challenging, and Biden argues he can’t crack down on crossings unless Congress passes the immigration bill.

News outlets have for years echoed the White House's talking points about the border. At first there was no crisis. Then it was the product of forces beyond Biden's control, like the seasons and the weather:

"Migrant Crossing Surges Aren’t New. Why Is the Border Overwhelmed?," New York Times, May 10, 2023:

Outdated immigration laws, partisan gridlock and conflict abroad are some reasons behind the strained U.S. border with Mexico.

"Repression, Economic Turmoil, and Gang Violence Is Driving the Crisis at the US Border, an Expert Says," Business Insider, Jan. 9, 2023.

"Climate Change Is a Major Factor Behind Increased Migration at US Southern Border, Experts Say," CNBC, April 18, 2021:

The impact of the hurricanes is one of many reasons migrants from Central America are making the dangerous journey to the U.S. southern border to seek refuge—and just one example of climate-exacerbated drivers of displacement and migration.

"The Migrant 'Surge' at the US Southern Border Is Actually a Predictable Pattern," Washington Post, March 25, 2021:

We analyzed monthly U.S. Customs and Border Protection data from 2012 through February and found no clear evidence that the overall increase in border crossings in 2021 can be attributed to Biden administration policies. Rather, the current increase fits a pattern of seasonal changes in undocumented immigration combined with a backlog of demand because of 2020s coronavirus border closure.

The last time the media believed Biden had the power to fix the border was during a temporary downturn in crossings in the spring:

"Where Did It All Go Right for Biden? Facts Blunt Republican Attack Lines," Guardian, July 30, 2023:

There were dire predictions about what would happen when pandemic-era Title 42 restrictions were lifted in May. Yet last month, under a new rule that makes it harder to attain full asylum, illegal border crossings fell to the lowest level in more than two years and the issue quickly faded from the news agenda.

"Southern Border ‘Eerily Quiet’ After Policy Shift on Asylum Seekers," Washington Post, July 12, 2023.

"Number of Migrants at the Border Plunges as Mexico Helps US To Stem Flow," New York Times, July 9, 2023:

The unusual scenes of relative calm flow from a flurry of actions the Biden administration has taken, such as imposing stiffer penalties for illegal border crossings, to try to reverse an enormous jump in migrants trying to reach the United States.

"Biden's Breakthrough on Immigration," Axios, June 24, 2023:

The Supreme Court's decision Friday allowing the Biden administration to target certain undocumented migrants for deportation came as new data indicate the president's latest border plan is slowing illegal crossings.

"As Border Crossings Dip, Biden Admin Crows About the Fiasco That Never Happened," Politico, June 6, 2023:

The Biden administration on Tuesday took a victory lap, declaring that its immigration plan is "working as intended" nearly a month after a major shift in policy at the nation’s southern border.

FLASH-FORWARD: White House spokesman Angelo Fernández Hernández clarified on Thursday that if Biden failed to secure the border, it would still be Republicans' fault.

"No executive action, no matter how aggressive, can deliver the significant policy reforms and additional resources Congress can provide and that Republicans rejected," Hernández said in a statement.

News outlets also hedged on Biden's behalf. The New York Times reminded readers on Thursday that a presidential crackdown on asylum seekers "would undoubtedly face legal challenges" and "a lack of resources would still be an enormous obstacle to any major changes at the border." Plus, the newspaper reported: "Some of the circumstances at the southern border are well beyond the president’s control, including historic migration across the hemisphere from Venezuela, Haiti, Honduras and other countries facing instability, violence and natural disasters."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden may not even be trying to succeed.

The newspaper reported on Thursday: "One of the people familiar with the matter said that Biden is motivated in part by the desire to demonstrate to Republicans, who have said he possesses all the power he needs to control the border, that any action he takes unilaterally could be thwarted."