At a press conference that took place before he started his presidency, Biden said he would not be able to roll back Trump’s restrictive asylum policies right away. He said it would likely take six months. “The last thing we need is to say we’re going to stop immediately … and then end up with 2 million people on our border.”

Nevertheless, Biden reversed other key Trump policies on Jan. 20, 2021, a few hours after taking the oath of office. For instance, he —

· Halted construction of the border wall;
· Ended Trump’s travel ban;
· Revoked Trump’s executive order directing his administration “to employ all lawful means to enforce the immigration laws of the United States;” and
· Biden’s acting DHS secretary issued interim enforcement guidelines that limited enforcement actions to deportable aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety, or border security.

The interim enforcement guidelines reined in ICE enforcement so severely that its 6,000 immigration enforcement officers were averaging only one arrest every two months as of the end of May 2021.

And the arrest rate hasn’t changed much since then. ICE arrested and booked into detention 4,281 aliens during September 2021, which raised the average number of arrests per agent — with detention — to one every month and a half.

An illegal crosser who succeeds in reaching the interior of the country is home free. It is extremely unlikely that he will be arrested by ICE unless he is convicted of a serious crime in the United States.

This encourages illegal crossers to keep trying until they succeed.

Moreover, their safe haven in the interior of the country was reinforced by the final version of the enforcement guidelines, which reins ICE in even more by requiring a case-by-case evaluation of various positive and negative factors before deciding whether to take an enforcement action.

Flood of illegal crossers

The border patrol apprehended more than 1.3 million illegal crossers in the first eight months of the Biden administration. This brought apprehensions for fiscal 2021, up to more than 1.6 million, which is the highest number of illegal crossings recorded in any fiscal year since the government began tracking such entries in 1960.


Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him at