Biden faces border crisis with key headless agencies

(Bloomberg) – US President Joe Biden is dealing with the influx of migrants at the border with Mexico without appointing permanent leaders in the key agencies that oversee the enforcement of immigration and refugee laws, which threatens to hamper the Administration’s response to a growing crisis.

Biden has yet to nominate a Customs and Border Protection commissioner, who is the one who detains migrants who try to cross the border illegally and controls the ports of entry. The Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, which oversees the office that manages shelters for children and adolescents arriving without their parents, also lacks a nominee.

The president also has not appointed permanent leaders for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Citizenship and Immigration Services, two agencies that will implement the new visas and compliance measures that will be central components of Biden’s commitment to create a more humane and welcoming immigration system. Immigration services also administer the naturalization system.

The Administration’s handling of the growing number of migrants on the US southern border has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans. On the one hand, Republican lawmakers blame Biden, saying his repeal of former President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies has encouraged more border crossings, a charge the Administration rejects. For their part, Democrats have opposed Biden using an emergency public health order to expel most of the migrants arriving at the border.

‘Just and humane’

Biden has been on the defensive over his handling of the dizzying number of migrants arriving at the border, which includes a record number of unaccompanied minors who have tested the government’s ability to care for them.

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In March, US authorities detained more than 172,000 migrants, the highest monthly total in the past two decades, according to data from US Customs and Border Protection. Among them were nearly 18,900 unaccompanied minors, double the number in February and well above the previous monthly record of 11,861 in May 2019.

The figures belie the White House’s claims that the increase is simply a seasonal increase and does not differ from previous years. White House officials say most of the migrants are single adults who are immediately expelled under a public health order aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

Still, the situation has turned into a political vulnerability for Biden even as he has received high levels of approval for his handling of the pandemic and the economy. According to an Associated Press / NORC poll released this week, less than a quarter of Americans approve of the president’s handling of unaccompanied minors at the border and 56% disapprove of his handling of immigration overall.

Last month, Biden put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of overseeing the Administration’s response to the border crisis, giving her her first major assignment since taking office. She leads a diplomatic effort to address the root causes of migration from Central American countries. The State Department also appointed Ricardo Zúñiga as a special envoy to the region.

While it is not unprecedented for immigration-related agencies to lack confirmed leaders within 100 days of the presidential term, some former government officials say this would be another hurdle facing Biden at a crucial time.

A White House official, who requested anonymity to discuss the nomination process, said nominees to fill vacancies in immigration-related agencies are expected to be announced in the coming weeks and months. The official denied that the lack of Senate-confirmed leaders in key agencies is preventing Biden from implementing policies designed to stem the flow of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border.

Original Note: Biden Confronts Border Surge With Immigration Jobs Unfilled (1)

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