President Joe Biden is supporting the Senate Border Act of 2024 (Border Act), which he says would “be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country.” 

“It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed,” he said. “And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law.”

Biden invited former President Donald Trump to join him in lobbying Congress to pass the Border Act, saying, “You know and I know it’s the toughest, most efficient, most effective border security bill this country’s ever seen. So instead of playing politics with the issue, why don’t we just get together and get it done?”

I disagree. The Border Act would have little, if any, impact on the factors that attract illegal immigration to the United States: it’s too easy for migrants without a visa to get into the United States, and they are reasonably safe from deportation once they have reached the interior of the country.

The main reason I can think of for Biden to support that bill is to reduce the negative impact that the border crisis will have on him in the upcoming elections. It makes it possible for him to say that he tried to secure the border with a tough bill — and the Republicans prevented it from passing.

Getting into the United States

Biden began his presidency on Jan. 20, 2021. As of Sept. 30, 2023, the Border Patrol had recorded nearly 6 million illegal encounters and released more than 3.3 million illegal border crossers into the interior of the country. Approximately 99.7 percent of them are still here. Since then, the Border Patrol has been releasing more than 85 percent of the illegal crossers it apprehends.

The Border Act would provide the president with the authority to shut down the border, but that authority wouldn’t kick in until the seven-day average number of cumulative encounters with inadmissible migrants averages 4,000 per day. And it would be discretionary unless the seven-day average goes above 5,000 per day — that’s almost 2 million per year.

In any case, a border shutdown isn’t feasible without cooperation from the Mexican government, and it is far from certain that the Mexican government would cooperate. Among other problems, a reduction in the admission of Mexican workers could significantly reduce the remittances sent home to workers’ families in Mexico; these remittances are a valuable lifeline for millions of Mexican households. Remittances from the United States to Mexico reached a record $55.9 billion in 2022. 


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: