By hinting that he will use executive power to crack down on mass illegal immigration for the first time in his administration, President Joe Biden is admitting that he already has the necessary authority to do so. This completely undercuts his attempt to blame Republicans in Congress for not giving him additional laws, money, and staff to get the job done.

Nonetheless, expect Biden to dodge the blame when he visits Texas Thursday, his second visit to the Mexican border in a 54-year political career. Biden will be in Brownsville at the same time Donald Trump will be in Eagle Pass, farther up the Rio Grande in Texas. 

With his overall approval rating at 38% and a mere 28% of Americans approving his handling of immigration, Biden is “leaning in on an issue he’d long ignored,” according to Politico.

As global political risk consultant John Hulsman writes in City A.M., a political “rule of thumb is that if the president’s approval rating is over 60% … he can pretty much do what he wants. If it falls below 40%, he is trying to squelch rumors that he is dead.”

Earlier this month, Biden failed to fool the American people into thinking the Senate “bipartisan” border bill was a magic bullet to end mass illegal immigration. That more and more Americans are seeing the price of his open border puts Biden in a real bind—a sort of Catch-22, or more accurately “catch-and-release ‘24.”

In Joseph Heller’s novel, the Catch-22 was that a World War II bomber pilot would be crazy to fly any more missions. But if he formally claimed to be insane to get out of flying more missions, that meant he was sane and had to keep flying.

Biden’s immigration conundrum is that he urgently needs to use his executive authority to stanch his falling approval rating over his abandonment of border security and enforcement, but he has claimed for three years that he had no such power. If he maintains that fiction, his approval ratings will likely continue to fall. But if he takes real action to secure the border, reduce asylum fraud, or increase deportations, he offends his far-left base and loses that support.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has his own immigration Catch-22. He has been using a provision of immigration law called parole to let in tens of thousands of inadmissible aliens a month. By law, this parole should be temporary, for “humanitarian” reasons or the “significant public benefit” of the United States. It should be granted “case-by-case,” but Biden and Mayorkas created several programs to mass-parole inadmissible aliens, including one allowing 36,000 of them a month from just four countries, including Venezuela.

It appears the Department of Homeland Security used parole to let in Jose Ibarra, the Venezuelan who is accused of murdering University of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley last week. Before releasing Ibarra, Mayorkas’ border agents had no way of knowing whether he had a criminal record in Venezuela.

As The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project Director Mike Howell pointed out, Mayorkas can either say he made every decision case-by-case, in which case he is responsible for Ibarra, or he can claim that millions are being paroled into the U.S. automatically, which is against the law.

In December 2022, I laid out the six biggest lies underlying the Biden border strategy. The biggest lie was blaming vague, worldwide factors for mass illegal migration then claiming there was nothing his administration could do about it but release or parole thousands of illegal immigrants a day into the interior of the United States.

In fact, all along, the administration has had the power to detain, expel, and deport inadmissible aliens under existing law. Without any new laws or money, Biden could have raised the bar for asylum claims to discourage the massive fraud we’re seeing. Instead, he preferred catch-and-release. He could have used the Migrant Protection Protocols with Mexico and the Asylum Cooperative Agreements with Central American countries to keep most potential asylum claimants outside the U.S. until their claims were heard by immigration courts. But he abandoned these agreements immediately upon taking office.

In Brownsville, Biden will hear nothing new from his staged engagements with Border Patrol agents and local politicians, all of whom depend on him for their jobs. The White House has already scripted Biden’s remarks. After falsely claiming that the recent Senate border bill was “the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border in decades,” he will ask “congressional Republicans to stop playing politics” and “to provide the funding needed,” said spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre. That’s his line and he’ll stick to it.

But Biden heard some truth in a meeting with state governors recently, when Republicans handed over a letter asking him to secure the border. “After digesting the gist,” reports Politico, “Biden shot back coolly that the things the governors wanted were all in the bipartisan border legislation that congressional Republicans refused to consider.”

Anyone who has watched Biden lately, much less heard him speak, would doubt he was able to digest any gist that quickly, or shoot back coolly. If he had read it, he’d know the Senate border bill would do the opposite of securing the border because it would expand and codify the very open border tools Biden is currently using and it would provide billions more dollars to bring in and sustain more illegal immigrants.

We know, and Biden knows, that he already has the power to fix the border and immigration chaos. That he has chosen not to, for over three years, is proof that his primary interest has never been national security or the safety of the American people.

Any concessions Biden makes now, however Draconian the Left may paint them, will be window-dressing to prop up his poll numbers and insufficient to stem the flow of illegal migration he has unleashed on Americans.

The BorderLine is a weekly Daily Signal feature examining everything from the unprecedented illegal immigration crisis at the border to immigration’s impact on cities and states throughout the land. We will also shed light on other critical border-related issues like human trafficking, drug smuggling, terrorism, and more.

Read Other BorderLine Columns:

Are We the Chump on the Latin American Block?

Asylum Zombies

The Gang’s All Here—Thanks to Biden’s Open Border

What I Saw at America’s Wide-Open Northern Border

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch: The Cost of Unchecked Illegal Immigration on Americans

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