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Beto: Step It Up Biden

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Beto O’Rourke writes a pretty powerful op-ed in the Times, urging Biden to step up and stop Greg Abbott’s personal militarization of the border.

The Supreme Court has consistently upheld that immigration enforcement is a power exclusive to the federal government — not the states. Elements of Mr. Abbott’s border operations have been found unconstitutional, violate federal law and conflict with U.S. treaty obligations to Mexico. Mr. Biden has every right — in fact, every responsibility — to intervene and enforce the federal government’s clear authority to regulate the border without state interference.

The lawsuit that the Department of Justice filed on Monday calls on Mr. Abbott to remove the dangerous floating barrier of buoys that he has installed in the Rio Grande. It is a good first step, but it is far from sufficient. Mr. Abbott has made clear that he does not intend to comply and isn’t going to wait for litigation to move through the courts to add to the gantlet of misery he’s constructed on the border.

Every day that Mr. Biden fails to stop Mr. Abbott leads to unnecessary, preventable suffering — and often death. Last week, a medic with the Texas Department of Public Safety blew the whistle on the governor’s deadly border operation, reporting that troopers have been ordered “to push small children and nursing babies back into the Rio Grande.”

It’s on Mr. Biden to stop this madness. In fact, promoting a humane immigration and asylum system is exactly what Mr. Biden promised to do when he ran for office.

On the campaign trail and early in his presidency, Mr. Biden vowed to put an end to the “cruel and reckless immigration policies” of his predecessor Donald Trump and build a “fair and humane immigration system in the United States that welcomes immigrants” and “keeps families together.”

I know that President Biden is a good man who has the ability to tackle conflict head-on by leading with moral clarity. Just look at his success in confronting climate change, reducing child poverty and rallying the Western democracies to attempt to stop Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.

And to his credit, the president has taken steps to undo some of the most harmful elements of Mr. Trump’s immigration policies. Mr. Biden has taken executive action to reunite families who were victims of the Trump administration’s barbaric crusade to separate children from their parents at the border. And he has opened up asylum pathways for many asylum seekers fleeing extraordinary violence in Central America and elsewhere.

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Mr. Biden must change course, and that begins by stopping Mr. Abbott. The president should order the immediate removal of the lethal razor wire and obstructions in the Rio Grande and ensure that Border Patrol are unimpeded by Texas Department of Public Safety officers — today. He must then take prompt action to replace Mr. Abbott’s disregard for human life with leadership that upholds our values as Americans, including by providing better legal pathways for those with valid asylum claims to safely and in an orderly fashion apply for refuge at legal ports of entry instead of desperately crossing dangerous stretches of the river. This is the president’s chance to show Americans that a humane approach is not only the right thing to do but also that it is the best way to establish order and safety at our southern border.

I know that the politics on this aren’t easy. And I can see why it might be tempting to allow the governor to assume ownership over the Texas border rather than pursue a public confrontation on an issue that is this politically charged. But if the president fails to enforce the federal government’s clear supremacy on matters of immigration, he will allow this challenge to grow as both a humanitarian crisis and as a political liability for his administration as he heads into 2024.

Biden is certainly not a cruel man. But immigration is nowhere near his highest priority. So while I am sure he is disgusted with Abbott, will he do take the necessary measures to stop him. The Texas governor simply is an outlaw and doesn’t care about the courts. It’s going to take real leadership and political capital here. Will Biden do that? I really don’t know.

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