Voices: Trump’s restrictive immigration policy is ending – but his politics remain under Biden

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

At midnight on Thursday, Title 42, the policy former president Donald Trump invoked to restrict immigration to the United States during the Covid-19 pandemic, will expire. Already, news stories have abounded about how areas near the US-Mexico border are preparing for an influx of migrants.

The politics of Title 42 are already playing out in Arizona’s Senate race next year. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who last year left the Democratic Party to become an independent, and Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina have introduced legislation to preserve the provision for an additional two years.

Ms Sinema, who spent years angering the left when she had a “D” next to her name, has yet to announce whether she’ll seek re-election. But Representative Ruben Gallego, the Democrat who announced his challenge against her earlier this year, sent four letters to Biden administration officials saying that border communities in Arizona “are simply unequipped to handle the surge of migrants,” NBC News reported.

Mr Gallego is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s political action committee last cycle. The fact that Mr Gallego has expressed concerns about communities near Mexico being overrun shows just how drastically the politics of immigration even among Democrats has changed from the past decade.

For Republicans, ending Title 42 has been a political boon. GOP senators largely dashed any hopes of another Covid-19 relief package last year on the basis of Mr Biden’s decision to end the policy.

Similarly, House Republicans plan to pass an immigration enforcement bill that would codify many of Mr Trump’s immigration policies such as the “Remain in Mexico” provision, which requires that migrants remain on the other side of the border while applying for asylum. The legislation would also pour resources into the border and resume construction of Mr Trump’s prized wall.

Republicans have gone all in on immigration because they believe that they have a winning hand on it. A survey from the Democratic polling firm Global Strategy Group last month showed 58 per cent of voters disapprove of how Mr Biden is handling immigration and 47 per cent of voters said they trust Republicans to handle immigration compared to Democrats. Republican governors such as Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida boosted their national profiles and rode to re-election largely on anti-immigrant sentiment.

But while the Biden administration plans to end Title 42, it still has received harsh criticism from immigration advocates for restricting other aspects of immigration. Specifically the president has been criticised for attempting to severely curtail who can seek asylum, specifically disqualifying migrants who do not apply for refugee status in a different country.

These policies come despite the fact that in his debate against Mr Trump, Mr Biden excoriated the then-president for being “the first President in the history of the United States of America that anybody seeking asylum has to do it in another country.”

Indeed, during his town hall with CNN, the former president hinted that were he to be elected, he would reinstate family separation, admitting “I know it sounds harsh” but “we have to save our country.” Mr Trump moved the pendulum so far to the right and made fear of migrants a standard fare that Democrats have become fearful of being seen as weak and therefore respond by being just as draconian to migrants.