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Joe Biden’s Expulsion Machine

Today in 'What Now': the BORDER/LINES crew on immigration in Biden's America.

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WOW it feels like it’s been AGES since I last hosted What Now, and it sure does feel great to be back. And what a special week too — the one-year anniversary of my last normal week on earth. This weekend last year I went to a karaoke hall with 10 friends and performed a very involved rendition of Papa Roach’s “Last Resort.” And now, this morning, I am watching the undoing of the British monarchy from the comfort of my relatively new work-from-home setup. How the world spins madly on! 

Today, I present to you an interview with immigration reporters Gaby Del Valle and Felipe de la Hoz, the brains behind the BORDER/LINES newsletter. And I ask that you kindly write in your questions for Wednesday’s Group Chat mail bag, to whatnow@discourseblog.com


Gaby Del Valle is an independent journalist and graduate student in Brooklyn. Felipe de la Hoz is also an independent journalist living in Harlem. Together, they write BORDER/LINES, a weekly newsletter breaking down the latest in immigration policy, connecting the news to historical context to help you understand why President Joe Biden’s “ambitious” immigration policies aren’t nearly ambitious enough.

You can subscribe to BORDER/LINES for free, or become a supporting subscriber and get access to exclusive content and interviews for $5/month. 

Here’s a sneak peek of the interview with Gaby and Felipe. Our Steward tier members are the only ones who get the full edition of What Now emailed to them. They also get access to all of our published content, an invite to our private Discord server, and more, starting at just $10 a month.

To read the whole interview, click here and subscribe to our Steward tier. You’ll get the latest edition of What Now in your inbox about an hour after signing up.

When I was starting out as an immigration writer nothing was reported as if it’s building upon something else. It was, “This new thing is happening, never before has any policy been so cruel,” etc. There was no explanation as to why any of this was allowed to happen, especially in the context of, “Is he allowed to do this?” What has been your process for distilling all this information into a product that other people will understand? 

Felipe: I think that sometimes [people say], “Wow, that’s great that you guys are breaking down these really arcane complex things,” and we do do that. But a lot of what we do also is just breaking down really simple things, because people have such strong, passionate opinions about immigration, but the vast majority of the public really don’t know anything about it.

And everything can just be entirely different from week to week. You can’t just change tax policy overnight. And this isn’t just some cursory shit. Your entire application is different based on whether [a policy] is or is not in effect. Congress basically delegated everything to the president with the Immigration and Nationality Act. And so that’s why it’s a particularly difficult area of policy to get your head around, because things that were true a month ago could just not be true now.

Gaby: That’s also why the answers to, “Can he do that?” is almost always like, “Yup.” A bunch of things that Trump tried to do didn’t actually fully come to fruition [because] they took a bunch of legal shortcuts and then violated the one thing that keeps all of this in check, the Administrative Procedure Act. All of it really does come back to “norms.” If Trump had just done things procedurally right, he could have had much more.

What has actually happened so far? You have done this deep dive into the 350-page bill on immigration reform that Biden put out in January. And at the beginning of February [Felipe] wrote about the policies mostly barring immigration that Biden hadn’t repealed.

Gaby: Biden has done both somehow a lot and very little. For example, MPP [the “Remain in Mexico” program for asylum seekers from Central America that began in mid-2019] is over. That’s very good for the people who are in MPP, and are being very slowly paroled into the United States. But what will and can be done to remedy harms done retroactively? If you were deported under MPP, is there going to be a process for you to have your case reopened? For families who were separated and already deported, what’s going to happen there?

Felipe: The other big thing is the Title 42 CDC [expulsion] order, which allows CBP to expel people who are arriving at the Southern border to ask for asylum or otherwise without documentation — that’s still in effect. And now they’re basically saying that it’s necessary as a COVID measure, which, even the CDC at the time signed it under duress because they didn’t think that it was a public health necessity.

So you have this whole “Good news, there’s not going to be any more family detention. They’re going to be used as weigh stations to test people for COVID and then they’ll be immediately released. Yay.” But the expulsion policy is still in place, and for migrant families. So it’s like, “You won’t be detained. You’ll just be expelled.”

What have you witnessed from the left so far in response to what Biden is doing? How have people been reacting to either the mainstream narrative, or the absence of critical analysis on what isn’t happening?

Gaby: Something I like to emphasize is using very specific language that you can accurately diagnose a problem instead of being vague, or wrong.

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