Dissension Growing Inside the Biden Administration /Over Border Problems

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File

Reuters is reporting on growing dissension inside the Biden Administration — dissension between the White House and federal agencies — over the slow pace of the agencies in resettling unaccompanied minors taken into custody after crossing the border.  This conflict is building at the same time — and may be in response to — worsening polling on the Administration’s handling of the crisis which is rapidly spiraling out of control. As detailed further below, it is hard to find a solution when thousands of new unaccompanied minors are apprehended each month, but only 300 are placed in quasi-permanent living arrangements each month.  That’s pretty much the functional equivalent of trying to hold back the ocean with a bucket.

Top aides to President Joe Biden are ramping up pressure on the agency that shelters thousands of unaccompanied migrant children, voicing frustration that kids are not being released quickly enough from detention, three U.S. officials said.

In daily calls with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other agencies, White House officials have demanded HHS speed up releases from its overloaded shelter system to free up space for children packed into crowded border patrol stations, the officials said. HHS is in charge of housing the migrant children and vetting potential U.S. sponsors, often parents and close relatives, who seek to take them in.

You don’t have to look far to find the obvious cause for this building friction between the White House and the federal bureaucracy.

Back on March 31, at the height of the momentary press coverage of the situation on the border regarding the housing and care of unaccompanied minors, Biden’s polling numbers on immigration dipped significantly.  Morning Consult’s polling released that day showed a nearly 10 point decline in just two weeks.

The rapid movement came from across the political spectrum, with the share of Democrats who disapprove of his handling of immigration increasing 11 points (to 20 percent), and the share of Republicans who said the same up 7 points (to 84 percent), since Biden took office.

Among more than a dozen issues tested – including climate, the pandemic, jobs and the economy – immigration yields Biden’s worst numbers among voters of either party and is the only issue where voter sentiment about the president’s handling is underwater among the larger electorate.

Five days later, an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll confirmed the bad numbers for Biden:

Overall, 40% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of children reaching the nation’s southern border without their parents, compared with just 24% who approve. Thirty-five percent don’t have an opinion either way.

Just 42% of Americans say they approve of how the president is handling immigration in general, and a similar share, 44%, say they approve of how he’s handling border security. Both are significantly lower than the 61% of Americans who say they approve of how Biden is handling his job overall

Additionally, only a third of Americans each say that allowing refugees to come to the U.S. or expanding “guest worker” programs should be high priorities.

That last data point in refugees relates to a controversy that sparked up on Friday.  Refugee policy and asylum seekers are one of those issues that are seemingly important to two groups primarily — 1) activist groups who believe the United States, alone in the world, exists to serve the function of a travel destination and relocation center for anyone anywhere who wants to escape the place on the planet where they were born and 2) corporate CEOs who know they can lower their labor costs by hiring technically proficient foreigners instead of more expensive United States citizens.

During the day on Friday, it was announced that the Biden Administration was going to leave in place the plan from the Trump Administration to admit only 15,000 refugees during 2021. By early evening the Biden Administration had changed plans.  The New York Times covered the switch:

At midday on Friday, the administration had said it would limit the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year to the historically low level of 15,000 set by the Trump administration, breaking an earlier pledge to greatly increase that number and let in more than 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution.

But that announcement drew immediate criticism from Democratic leaders. In a statement, Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the majority whip, called the administration’s admissions target “unacceptable.”

“Facing the greatest refugee crisis in our time, there is no reason to limit the number to 15,000,” Mr. Durbin said. “Say it ain’t so, President Joe.”

Just hours later, the White House put out a statement saying it expected to increase the cap next month. It did not comment when asked to specify the number.

This one is a head-scratcher because it is inconceivable that no one in the White House would have anticipated a backlash from Democrats and interest groups to an announced reversal on the refugee settlement issue.

Let’s return now to that first issue — the ongoing “Kids in Cages” policy at the border.

The main White House aides exerting pressure on HHS are Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy adviser and a powerful voice within the administration, and Amy Pope, a senior adviser for migration hired last month to help deal with the escalating situation at the southern border, said two of the three officials.

That little nugget from the Reuters story tells you it is the Obama Administration political class who are riding the agencies — the bureaucrats — to solve the problems created by the policies put in place in response to interest group politics without planning for how/whether the policies could be implemented without leading to disastrous results.

Rice, in particular, has pressed HHS staffers on what she sees as an unacceptably slow pace of releases of children to sponsors, the three officials said. While the number of children in HHS custody has grown by more than 65% between the end of March and mid-April, reaching more than 19,000, the number released from shelters has stayed around 300 per day, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

Now, I didn’t major in math at any point after 9th grade, but when you take the coefficient of Pi and divide it by the index of immigration, and set-off the exponential variant from the ratio of housing to porta-potties —  getting 300 kids a month settled with 19,000 in the pipeline and growing each month results in a calculation of — a damn big problem.

It seems like some in the White House and media recognized it as such.

HHS officials worry that speeding up the vetting process too much could lead children to be released into unsafe situations, according to two of the three Biden administration officials.

Rice has “pressed consistently” for HHS to speed up its releases of children to make space in children’s shelters, said another of the three officials familiar with the matter. HHS efforts on that front have been inadequate, the person said, but are now improving.

HHS defenders say the criticism in meeting after meeting where HHS “is getting yelled at” is taking a toll on the staff.

The press is doing its part in helping to manage the disaster.  How?  By not covering it any longer.  If you don’t poll the question, there are no bad poll results to report.  As our friend Jazz Shaw noted over at HotAir yesterday:

As we approach the end of President Joe Biden’s first hundred days in office, the usual suspects in the polling industry are checking his approval rating and contrasting it with his predecessors as one would expect. Pew Research (never exactly a MAGA-friendly outfit on the best of days) published their latest update this week and the results are… complicated to say the least.

Jazz quotes from the release from Pew

The survey finds that, for the most part, the public’s views of major problems facing the U.S. are little changed from about a year ago. However, the share of Americans saying the coronavirus is a very big problem has declined 11 percentage points since last June (from 58% to 47%), while the share citing illegal immigration has increased 20 points (from 28% to 48%).

Pew — certainly understanding the trend for the Biden Administration in the polling on that issue, addressed the problem as follows according to Jazz:

There was no question specific to the border crisis (go figure)….

There’s the strategy — when the pollsters know the question will produce bad results for the Biden Administration they don’t ask the question.

The veterans of the Obama Administration certainly understand that immigration is now the “third rail” of American politics — there simply is no policy option that satisfies vocal Democrat party interest groups without dramatically animating GOP opposition forces on the same issue.

Because the Executive Branch has near plenary control of both immigration policy and implementation of that policy — right down to the immigration court system which is part of the Executive Branch and not the Judiciary — Democrats are able to create their own self-consuming crisis in record time and without any plan for solving it.

They have that process well underway right now.  The public has taken notice.

Open borders and gun confiscation.

Always a winning electoral strategy in the minds of the Democrat Party.