Illegal Immigrants or Extreme Tourists? The New Debate Raging in Washington

In the face of an unprecedented surge of unlawful crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, most Americans, as indicated by recent polls, have expressed their concerns, categorizing illegal immigration as either a crisis or a significant problem.

A recent Gallup poll reveals that 39% of Americans view the border situation as a critical crisis, while an additional 33% consider it a significant problem. This indicates that 72% of Americans perceive the border situation as a severe issue that requires immediate attention.

The Republican perspective on illegal immigration has consistently advocated for secure borders and remained unchanged since 2019. A similar Gallup poll conducted during the tenure of former President Donald Trump showed that 88% of Republicans viewed illegal immigration as a significant problem, a figure that has slightly increased to 91% in 2023. This suggests that the issue of border security is not merely a partisan matter but a deeply held conviction among Republicans.

In contrast, Democrats have shown an increased tolerance for illegal immigration, with their current concerns dropping from 68% in 2019 to 56%. This shift in perspective among Democrats indicates a political influence on their views regarding the issue.

Republican lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration for implementing policies incentivizing individuals to undertake the dangerous journey north and cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. However, The Biden administration has attributed the crisis to external factors such as crime, corruption, and poverty in the countries of origin, while accusing the Trump administration of undermining the country’s asylum system.

Despite the ongoing debate, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported a decrease in encounters along the Southwest border in June, with 144,607 incidents, the lowest since February 2021. The CBP attributes this decline to the Biden administration’s efforts to expand legal pathways for entry into the United States.

The expiration of Title 42 restrictions in May and the subsequent implementation of a new policy have also played a role in the current immigration scenario. Title 42, a regulation introduced by the Trump administration to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, was used over 2.5 million times to block refugee claims. The new policy, which resembles the expired one, stipulates that illegal immigrants must first seek protection in the countries they pass through on their way to the United States before applying for asylum here, with few exceptions.

Despite rumors of an open border following the expiration of Title 42, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has clarified that the borders are not open and that those crossing unlawfully without a legal basis will be promptly processed and removed.

Since President Biden took office, over 5 million illegal immigrants have crossed over into the United States. In response to the ongoing crisis, the DHS has announced that more potential illegal immigrants can schedule their entry into the United States, increasing the number of daily appointments at ports of entry.

The problem of illegal immigration continues to be a significant concern for a majority of Americans, particularly among Republicans. As the debate continues, it is clear that effective and humane solutions are needed to address this ongoing crisis.