The Immigration Policy Spiral: Joe Biden, from a position of weakness, is trying to cut a punitive deal on border policy without the House. (DAVID DAYEN, DECEMBER 15, 2023, American Prospect)

As talks flailed, Mitch McConnell, who sees Ukraine as part of his personal legacy, announced that the only way anything would happen on the border-for-Ukraine swap is if Biden got personally involved. McConnell is someone with personal experience fleecing Biden in moments of weakness, dating back to the 2012 fiscal cliff. And because Biden both believes Ukraine is the leading foreign-policy challenge of his presidency, and hopes against hope to take the border issue “off the table” in the next election, he was eager to engage, from a position of weakness.

Biden sent his chief of staff Jeff Zients and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas into the talks, and made a series of concessions. One allows for unilateral expulsions without asylum screenings, a reversion to the Title 42 expulsion policy that was lifted when the pandemic emergency expired, on days with a high number of border crossings. (How this would not violate international law is unstated.) In addition, Biden has offered tightened “credible fear” standards for granting asylum, mandated detention for some migrants pending a court hearing (it’s anyone’s guess where they would be held, as there is already a shortage of beds), and expansion of expedited removal to deport migrants anywhere in the country who fail an asylum screening. As Dara Lind of the American Immigration Council explains, if that ever passed it would be a nice tool for Stephen Miller’s dreams of mass deportation.

The offer has made some Democratic lawmakers, commentators, and immigrant rights groups apoplectic. It devolves the deal-making from “comprehensive immigration reform” to a border crackdown, with no new path to legal standing in the U.S. for any migrant. I’m not sure Latino voters, whose top issues are inflation and jobs and whom Biden is messaging to by likening Trump to Latin American dictators, will see this as a betrayal, but the people who volunteer and knock on doors for Biden might.

There was never any chance he’d govern well, but he needn’t have been as bad as this.


Early Signs of Success: 2,500 Refugees Resettled in the U.S. Through the Safe Mobility Office (SMO) Initiative So Far (MATTHEW LA CORTE, DECEMBER 13, 2023, Niskanen Center)

Seven months after the announced launch of the Safe Mobility Office (SMO) initiative, data exclusively obtained by the Niskanen Center shows that approximately 2,500 refugees have arrived in the U.S. so far as part of the program. More than 10,000 migrants have already been referred to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and are undergoing refugee processing — many of whom will be resettled in the United States in the next few months.

Given that SMOs are still in their early stages, these findings suggest the program is already moderately successful. Especially considering President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 refugee plan calls for up to 50,000 refugees to be resettled from Latin America and the Caribbean, the early progress proves that the SMO initiative can lead to expanded resettlement in the hemisphere. This region’s scale-up and attention to processing are impressive, considering that just 6,000 refugees were resettled from those regions in FY23.


A Soft Landing for the Economy—and Biden? (James Pethokoukis, 12/13/23, AEIdeas)

Analysts at Goldman Sachs find “the strongest statistical relationship with the election result is often with [economic] variables measured in Q2 of the election year.” What’s more, they explain, “Inflation appears to be less predictive of election results than growth and labor market variables.”

Given that inflation, rather than jobs and growth, has been America’s biggest economic problem of late, that’s good news for Biden. This, too, perhaps: First-term incumbents traditionally win reelection, unless there’s a recession.

More good news for Biden: Goldman Sachs economists forecast just a 15 percent change of a recession next year, with the JPMorgan team also upbeat:

Overall the labor market continues to look healthy, albeit with some recent softening in the trends for net hiring and wage growth. While there may be some bending in the economy, we don’t see much evidence of a break into a recession and we continue to believe that the Fed will be successful in engineering a soft landing for the economy.


It’s starting to look like China regrets its private-enterprise crackdown (Huileng Tan, Dec 14, 2023, Business Insider)

A document released after the conference set the agenda for China’s economy — the second-largest economy in the world — for the next year. Strikingly, this year’s readout acknowledged that China needed to prioritize economic development.

“Next year, we must persist in seeking progress while maintaining stability, promote stability through growth, and establish the new before breaking the old,” the meeting’s official readout said.

Rory Green, the chief China economist at GlobalData.TS Lombard, wrote in a note on Wednesday that the wording in this document suggested “hints of remorse at overzealous growth-negative policy implementation.”

“The emphasis on the economy was followed by ‘prioritizing development before addressing problems,’ alongside rhetoric that linked national security to maintaining a stable growth rate,” Green wrote. He added that this suggested official recognition of the difficulties facing the country.