One thing is clear, Democrats are on a messaging run. Just two weeks ago we saw Senate Democrats bring the bipartisan border bill up for a vote knowing they didn’t have Republican votes to get it passed. It was a strategic move that will allow Democrats to go into the next elections pointing out how Republicans are unwilling to do anything about the border.

Similarly, President Joe Biden’s Executive Order will likely serve the same purpose. The order parallels the one former president Donald Trump tried to implement but was struck down by the Supreme Court. Many experts suggest Biden’s order won’t survive the courts and is simply a messaging move. The president will now be able to point out Republican hypocrisy about the border on the campaign trail while also being able to say he tried to do something without them.

In May, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), a co-author of the bipartisan border security bill had strong words for Democrats and Republicans in the Senate

Strategists suggest it’s a smart political move.

But are Democrats now okay with using migrants as political pawns? We’ve been watching Republicans target migrants with oppressive laws that are legally questionable but have yet to be adequately challenged by Biden’s Department of Justice. We have also watched Republican governors treat migrants inhumanely thus empowering their local and state police and national guard to treat migrants as brutally as legally possible. Again, unchallenged.

Republicans have been spreading hateful and resentful messaging about Latino immigrants for decades. Their rhetoric has grown more inflammatory since Trump entered the presidential fray. They’ve been treating migrants as less than human because it helps bolster their messaging by appealing to their white Christian nationalist base. Some of the Biden administration’s moves on the border highlight its efforts to appeal to that same voting bloc.

“President Biden believes we must secure our border,” reads a statement from the White House. “That is why today, he announced executive actions to bar migrants who cross our Southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum. These actions will be in effect when high levels of encounters at the Southern Border exceed our ability to deliver timely consequences, as is the case today. They will make it easier for immigration officers to remove those without a lawful basis to remain and reduce the burden on our Border Patrol agents.”

In a statement issued by the White House, the administration argues that the high level of encounters at the border exceeds the ability to “deliver timely consequences” despite encounters per agent being lower than they were in 2005. Additionally, the negotiated bipartisan border bill that is focused on enforcement and not on the humane treatment of migrants – nor does it provide a path to citizenship for millions – allowed the president to close the border if the number of asylum seekers reaches 5,000 per day.

Encounters per Border Patrol agent are lower than they were in 2005

“The United States of America became the strongest, most prosperous nation on earth because of – not despite – immigration,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) said in a statement. “The ‘daily threshold’ in this executive order would amount to a functional ban on asylum for many families escaping persecution and violence. It would fundamentally change our asylum laws without any new protections for Dreamers or other immigrants who have paid taxes, raised families, and contributed to our nation’s prosperity.

“Immigration and the border are perhaps the thorniest issues in American politics,” Castro continued. “Republicans use them to fearmonger; they use immigrants as political scarecrows to frighten voters. If this executive order goes into effect, it’s likely that every future president, especially Republicans, will use and expand it to choke off immigration and the right to asylum. The political pressure to keep the ban in effect will be too overwhelming.

“President Biden has worked hard to build a better future for America and has succeeded remarkably across many areas of public policy – making historic progress to lower health care costs, launch a new age of American manufacturing, and create millions of well-paying jobs. But this executive order is the wrong approach and goes too far,” Castro said.

President Biden’s executive order allows him to close the border when the number of asylum seekers entering between points of entry (a legal process he promised to protect) reaches 2,500 which is timely considering numbers at the border are down. That means he will likely close the border to asylum seekers immediately while still allowing for appointments through the CBP One app which has been problematic, to say the least.

The system the administration argues is “broken” has been made worse due to shoddy policy ideas like the CBP One app. Yes, we can put much of the blame on Republicans for refusing to come to the table, but let’s not pretend the bipartisan border bill the administration is so proud of is worth anything. It isn’t. Crackdowns similar to what almost became law in that bill and the executive order have always had negative impacts. Because of that, we can predict the outcome should Biden’s executive order stick.

“If I’m elected president, we’re going to immediately end Trump’s assault on the dignity of immigrant communities… It’s going to cost a lot of money, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than building a wall. We’re going to restore sensible enforcement priorities and stop terrorizing Latino communities.” – Joe Biden, August 2020

More migrants will opt to cross further away from points of entry than they are now and fewer will be willing to turn themselves in because of the fear of being dumped somewhere in Mexico under the Trump/Biden ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy. Most migrants currently turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents because it is a legal way to claim asylum.

Taking the right to claim asylum away will only force migrants to cross the border through more dangerous terrain that has historically cost countless asylum-seekers their lives. Especially as we’re already seeing a spike in deaths at the border due to the extreme heat. With more than 656 humanitarian rescues conducted in the El Paso Sector this year so far, Biden’s executive order will only worsen the problem.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) explains everything wrong with the bipartisan border bill better than most

The Biden administration’s tone-deafness on the issue of the border shows in its willingness to bolster far-right narratives with words like “crisis” and shut out Latino lawmakers from border communities who are experts on the issue. It shows an outright disinclination to get it right. Now, we find ourselves watching the president go back on his word to protect the right to seek asylum while playing political games to win a messaging war on the campaign trail.

Republicans have been using migrants as political pawns for a long time and have rightfully been called out for it. It seems odd that Democrats would employ the tactic.

Watch Biden’s Remarks on His Executive Order

Let the messaging war commence



The Antagonist Magazine is a project made up of journalists, activists, and writers focused on amplifying the stories of marginalized communities. The goal is to educate the public by sharing narratives focused on independent voices. Born of an online community in 2019, our platform operates independently; free of corporate influence. Please consider supporting the work of dozens of writers from various communities.

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.