The BorderLine: Boggled by Biden’s Border Crisis? Relax, AOC Is in Charge

COMMENTARY Border Security

The BorderLine: Boggled by Biden’s Border Crisis? Relax, AOC Is in Charge

Oct 3, 2023 7 min read
Simon Hankinson

Senior Research Fellow

Simon is a Senior Research Fellow in the Border Security and Immigration Center at The Heritage Foundation.
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) attends a news conference on September 20, 2023 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

The message has to be unequivocal: If the U.S. government cannot fulfill its most basic function to secure out borders, it should not be funded.  

Illegal aliens interviewed in New York, on the border, in Mexico, and right on down the Americas have told journalists exactly this: They are coming for work.

The message has to be unequivocal: If the U.S. government cannot fulfill its most basic function to secure our borders, it should not be funded.  

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.


For most of his 50-plus years in politics, Joe Biden spoke and voted as if he believed borders, law enforcement, and fiscal restraint were important, as his (coherent) speech from his unsuccessful 1988 presidential campaign shows.

It’s possible he had a change of heart on immigration enforcement late in his career like he did on same-sex marriage. But more likely, he is now befuddled by detail and unable to comprehend the scale of the problem he is creating through the hard-left ideologues actually running his immigration policy behind the scenes.

Hearing Biden talk these days, like his Sept. 21 speech at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus gala, reminds me of King Theoden of Rohan in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” Theoden is an old, confused man, dozing under the spell of his reptilian adviser, Wormtongue. Meanwhile, besieged by an evil army, his allies in Gondor are desperate for help.

Like the spellbound king, Biden’s squinting delivery belies that he comprehends what he is saying. He swivels from the left to the right teleprompter, spitting out angry phrases and jumbled words.

Though Biden’s staff labels any criticism unfair, inaccurate, or ageist, anyone can see that his grip on both subject matter and history is slipping badly. At a recent fundraiser in New York City, Biden reportedly told exactly the same story twice. White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre’s excuse? He “spoke to that passionately” and was “emotional.”

In the Hispanic Caucus speech, Biden touted his “policies that process [inadmissible aliens] in a fair and fast way”—which is to say only one way: into the U.S. (The way back to their home countries for those ordered removed after due process? That he has basically prohibited).

Biden also claimed he’d directed his staff to make “historic increases in the number of refugees admitted from Latin America.” He may believe he did, but the number admitted last year from around the entire world through the formal U.S. Refugee Admissions Program was a paltry 25,000. Meanwhile, Biden’s Department of Homeland Security is letting in that many unvetted, economic migrants—who rarely qualify for asylum even when they apply—every week.

On Sept. 15, Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke outside a formerly grand hotel in Manhattan, now used as a migrant shelter, about the city’s difficulties housing, feeding, and controlling over 60,000 illegal aliens, many of whom have been exceedingly belligerent to their American hosts. Her message was hard to hear over the shouts of outraged locals, but here’s what she asked for:

First, she wants more of your federal tax dollars for cities to house, feed, and educate the millions pouring through Biden’s open border.

Second, she wants Biden to grant work authorizations to illegal immigrants jumping the line in front of those waiting to come legally.

Third, she wants Biden to “extend” Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans, of whom 37,912 attempted to cross the U.S. border illegally in August alone. They were the third-largest nationality encountered at the border, behind only Guatemalans and Mexicans and just ahead of Hondurans.

Temporary Protected Status is one of the bogus methods used by Biden (and others before him, though nothing like this scale) to allow otherwise illegal aliens to remain in the U.S. and work here, grossly abusing immigration law.

A week after Ocasio-Cortez’s speech, Biden’s DHS announced not only an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status for the 180,000 Venezuelans already in the program, but a legally dubious expansion of the status to include nearly half a million more who have arrived since, right up to July 31. It’s as if Biden’s executive action was ordered right from Ocasio-Cortez’s menu.

In a Sept. 24 “Face the Nation” interview, she praised Biden for the additional protected status for Venezuelans, saying this would allow them to support themselves by working legally. Yet in the same interview, she complained that unionized U.S. auto workers had seen a “real wage decrease over the last 10-15 years.”

If Ocasio-Cortez is fuzzy on labor economics, she clearly does not understand the law of supply and demand, as she denied that illegal aliens were coming north in never-before-seen numbers because they wanted work. In fact, illegal aliens interviewed in New York, on the border, in Mexico, and right on down the Americas to Panama’s Darien Gap have told journalists exactly this: They are coming for work.

The masses arriving today are only “asylum seekers” in the sense that they may claim they have a “credible fear” of going back home—something they were coached into telling border officials upon arrival so they could stay here.

But in the end, 85% of them won’t complete the asylum application process or qualify. And under Biden, they stand next to zero chance of being deported whatever the outcome of their cases. Ocasio-Cortez and the far Left know this, as do the millions of illegal aliens already here and millions more on their way.

The Democratic Socialists of America call Ocasio-Cortez their “foremost socialist superstar.” In 2016, the group asked President Barack Obama to end sanctions on Venezuela, and in 2021, it sent a delegation to meet with Nicolás Maduro, the dictator who succeeded Hugo Chavez there.

The Wall Street Journal called Ocasio-Cortez’s trip last month to Brazil, Chile, and Colombia the “South American socialist sympathy tour.” All three countries are run by far-left leaders who are rapidly doing to their countries what Fidel Castro did to Cuba and Chavez did to Venezuela.

But instead of pinning the blame for ruined Latin American economies and suppressed peoples on the socialist leaders where it belongs, the New York congresswoman said U.S. sanctions against Venezuela,  written by (Cuban-American) Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., “took a large part in the driving of populations to our southern border.”

So, under her logic, if we removed sanctions from Cuba and Venezuela, everyone would magically stop coming? Please.  

On “Face the Nation,” Ocasio-Cortez also asked for “comprehensive immigration reform,” which in Democrat-speak means amnesty (green cards) for all those here illegally; an end to interior immigration enforcement (deportation); and a perpetual open door for anyone to enter the U.S. and claim asylum, no matter how weak the claim.

Like the Biden administration, the congresswoman still adheres to the “root causes” of illegal immigration nonsense, which holds that if you throw enough billions of dollars at poor countries, then their weak governments, corruption, and crime will be reduced enough to stop people from wanting to go elsewhere for more money and better living conditions.

To be charitable, that is a fantasy. To be more cynical, it is an un-rebuttable smokescreen hiding perennial international socialist goals like an unlimited “right to migrate” anywhere in the world and “global citizenship.”

In August, the Biden administration set yet another historical record, with over 304,000 inadmissible aliens caught attempting to enter the U.S. illegally—and then mostly released into the country. This number doesn’t include the monthly portion of an estimated 1.6 million “gotaways” who snuck in without getting caught since Biden took office.

According to a recent poll, only 23% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the border, while 62% disapprove. But it doesn’t matter: Biden is apparently not capable of seeing the forest of the national interest for the trees of his own and his party’s self-interest.

In “The Lord of the Rings,” Gandalf the wizard breaks the spell, and Theoden recovers his strength and will. Gondor is saved.

But here’s where the metaphor ends: Biden is not going to wake up from the spell. There is no wizard to frighten off the worm-tongues whispering in his ear that borders are bad; unlimited migration is good; and that accepting millions of illegal immigrants each year is harmless to America’s sovereignty, society, and rule of law.

If anyone is to rescue us from this nightmare, it will be the American people. They must demand that Congress exercise its power of the purse to defund Biden’s open border operations, end the administration’s abuse of parole, enforce deportation orders, and resume the Migrant Protection Protocols under which asylum claimants await the processing of their cases outside the U.S.

Policy changes like these are presently in both the House and Senate versions of a proposed Secure the Borders Act.

The message has to be unequivocal: If the U.S. government cannot fulfill its most basic function to secure our borders, it should not be funded.  

Read Other BorderLine Columns:

We Look Inside Biden’s Bogus Illegal Immigrant ‘Visa’ Program

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal