Points on the Board

Ali Noorani
5 min readOct 4, 2021


The crisis in Del Rio feels like a long time ago. It wasn’t.

Even if “the majority of the border-crossers who reached the Del Rio camp have been returned to Haiti or turned back to Mexico,” migration from the south continues. In Necoclí, Colombia, thousands gather before they traverse the dangerous Darien Gap of Panama. A well worn path that has been heavily traveled for months.

Which speaks to a significant change in migration across the hemisphere. “From October 2020 through August, nearly 300,000 migrants from countries other than Mexico and the Northern Triangle were encountered at the border, a fifth of all crossings,” wrote a team from the Wall Street Journal. “For all of fiscal 2020, when the pandemic slowed the flow of migrants, the figure was nearly 44,000, or 11% of crossings.”

In The Atlantic, Caitlin Dickerson captures the searing inequities of our immigration system:

One would be hard-pressed to imagine a scenario in which, following a coup or an earthquake in France, a large crowd of Parisians would show up in Matamoros, Mexico, and face the same treatment as the Haitians — because they would not be required to present themselves at the border in the first place. People from wealthy Western countries don’t need visas to come to the United States. For a few hundred dollars, they can simply hop on planes and enter the U.S. as tourists. Then, at some point on their “vacation,” they can show up at a government office and request asylum as part of a non-adversarial administrative process. Or they can simply stay in the U.S. illegally without seeking permission, as thousands of Western Europeans and Canadians do each year.

Don’t worry, the Post’s Nick Miroff reported that the administration “said it has provided $5.5 million to assist Haiti returnees, who are given a cash handout of about $100 when they land.” Yup. That should do it.

While there are plenty of communities preparing for the arrival of Afghans, the actual resettlement flow is yet to build. As NYT’s Miriam Jordan and Jennifer Steinhauer point out, some 53,000 Afghans are currently living on military bases across the country; with another 14,000 waiting at installations around the world. Delaying their release is a combination of vaccinations, quarantines and immigration processing. Good.

Meanwhile, on the Hill, recent decisions by the Senate parliamentarian have narrowed the path to reform via reconciliation. In a Friday interview with CNN, New York Rep. Adriano Espaillat said Democrats will present three more options in the weeks ahead.

These are among the immigration issues that bubble in a political stew of nativism sure to get worse as the midterms approach

Let’s be honest. The brute force and ugly rhetoric of the Trump administration would not have solved these problems. But, in the harshness would be a level of clarity.

Which is the problem Biden faces: while cruelty is clear, the complexity of Biden’s approach is leaving him between a deeply disappointed left and a deeply skeptical right — to put it generously.

Clarity that leads to a larger coalition of Americans supporting immigrants and immigration requires we get points on the board. And quickly.

First of all, successful integration of Afghans into the U.S. is of utmost importance. As families arrive in communities, faith, law enforcement and business leaders need to be a part of the process to welcome their newest neighbors. Fortunately, momentum for a successful resettlement continues to build.

Last week, bipartisan support at the local and national level led Congress to pass a short-term spending bill that included $6.3 billion in supplemental funding for Afghan resettlement, as well as benefits for Afghan parolees who were admitted to the U.S. under humanitarian parole.

And to facilitate the integration process and build support across the country, Welcome.us, co-chaired by the Domestic Policy Council directors of the Bush and Obama administrations, has stood up a robust operation that is now led by the brilliant Nazanin Ash.

All of which is incredibly important. But the bigger challenge is at the border and on the Hill.

At the border, the use of Title 42 has led to high rates of recidivism that inflate the numbers of border encounters and create a sense of chaos. Only playing into the hands of those who seek to weaponize migration.

It’s time for the administration to lift Title 42 and institute an organized process that sends the necessary personnel to the border to process people in a humane, orderly fashion that offers due process to people with viable asylum claims. If no such asylum claim exists, they should be removed.

Shorter: Lift the public health restriction, secure the border. Because, right now, as the Post’s Kevin Sieff describes, the cartels are ruthless in their exploitation of people — particularly those under the age of 18 — to smuggle migrants across the border.

In the longer term, we sorely need an approach to migration that looks across the Western Hemisphere. Dan Restrepo writes, “After all, if the natural barrier of the Darien isn’t enough to deter migration from COVID-ravaged South America it is difficult to imagine anything governments could lawfully do at political borders will prove effective, especially standing alone.”

And, finally, if there is no path forward on legalization via reconciliation, it is time to cut a deal that marginalizes the Republicans who rail about the issue only then to block solutions.

A discrete set of reforms that balance humane solutions and restore order through enforcement is what the public wants. An effort needs to be mounted to identify enough Republican to get to a compromise. Allowing the perception of chaos to continue only allows Donald Trump, and everything he represents, to gain power.

Cutting a deal won’t be easy. But, allowing nativists to continue to weaponize migration will lead to much worse.



Ali Noorani

President and CEO of National Immigration Forum, author of “Crossing Borders” (April 2022, Rowman & Littlefield), host of the podcast, Only in America.