Biden could send US migrants to ‘safe third countries’

Migrants queue to cross the border between Mexico and the United States
Republicans have claimed the situation at the Unites States' southern border has become unmanageable - John Moore/Getty Images North America
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Joe Biden is said to be considering sending migrants trying to enter the United States to “safe third countries” as part of a compromise to help him secure funding for Ukraine’s military struggle against Russia.

To appease Republicans who say that the situation at the US southern border has become unmanageable, discussions are reportedly under way to identify countries where migrants would be sent to live while their asylum claims were processed.

Donald Trump agreed a similar deal with several countries in Central America, including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Critics of that policy pointed out that many migrants were fleeing those very countries because they were anything but safe and were often plagued by gang violence and poverty.

The British Government has sought to address what it has described as an immigration crisis in the UK by trying to send would-be migrants to Rwanda, a plan that was recently judged by the country’s top court to be illegal.

A migrant entering from Mexico is photographed by a US Border Patrol agent
Discussions are reportedly under way to identify countries where US migrants would be sent to live as asylum claims are processed - John Moore/Getty Images North America

Earlier this week, Mr Biden said he was willing to compromise on the issue.

“I’ve made it clear that we need Congress to make changes to fix what is a broken immigration system, because we know, we all know it’s broken, and I’m willing to do significantly more,” he said at the White House.

“But in terms of changes of policy and to provide resources we need at the border, I’m willing to change policy as well.”

The Wall Street Journal said that in talks between the White House and Republicans, Mr Biden’s administration had made clear it was willing to discuss several ideas to curtail asylum access.

Those included a change to asylum law that would tighten the initial screening migrants must clear to proceed with a full asylum case.

US Border Patrol agents process migrants in California
On Wednesday, Republicans blocked a $110 billion measure backed by Mr Biden that included $20 billion for the border - VALERIE MACON/AFP

The newspaper said that the White House had also signalled openness to designating countries as “safe third countries” where asylum seekers at the border could be sent, and would also increase the number of rapid deportations.

While any such deal would be criticised by progressives in Mr Biden’s party, as well as migrant rights activists, it would probably be supported by many moderates, especially because they face re-election next year and could tell voters that the president had listened to their concerns.

It may be that Mr Biden has few options but to budge, given that he has backed himself into a corner on his wish to continue funding Ukraine.

What was once bipartisan support for the issue has dwindled 22 months after Russia’s invasion, often leaving Mr Biden as a lone voice saying that the US must continue to back Kyiv, while providing additional funds to Israel after Oct 7 and money for the US-Mexico border.

There are few issues that more engage and enrage the Republican base stirred by Mr Trump than allegations that the United States has an “open border”.

Joe Biden speaks at the White House
Mr Biden said: 'I’ve made it clear that we need Congress to make changes to fix what is a broken immigration system.' - Evan Vucci/AP

On Wednesday, Republicans blocked a $110 billion (£87.7 billion) emergency foreign aid measure backed by Mr Biden – a proposal that included $20 billion for the border – because it did not include significant policy changes to curtail record-high crossings.

Mr Biden’s administration is now considering getting behind new restrictions, according to several reports on Friday. The White House did not immediately respond to enquiries.

The last time that the United States enacted comprehensive immigration reform was in 1986, when a bill signed into law by Ronald Reagan made it an offence to hire illegal immigrants.

That legislation also granted legal status to undocumented immigrants who had arrived in the country before 1982.