Joe Biden’s border mishandling reminiscent of Jimmy Carter

“Worse than Jimmy Carter” is a commonly used phrase by Republicans when referring to Democratic presidents. Joe Biden, in particular, exemplifies this label when it comes to immigration, alongside inflation and the Afghan situation, as it reflects the same difficulties experienced during the Carter years. In 1980, the overwhelmed Carter administration struggled to handle the Mariel boatlift, which saw a sudden influx of Cubans into South Florida. Similarly, the Biden White House is now witnessing a migrant crisis that is straining communities across the country. Former Democratic governor Bill Clinton faced political repercussions when boatlift migrants, who were housed at a fort in Arkansas, participated in riots. This situation parallels the current predicament of Mayor Eric Adams and other Democratic officeholders who are paying the price for a failed border policy beyond their control. However, it is crucial to recognize that these two crises, despite occurring over 40 years apart, are not identical. The current influx of migrants, numbering in the millions, surpasses the 125,000 arrivals during the boatlift in 1980. Moreover, the 1980 crisis predominantly impacted Miami alone, and it lacked the manipulation by a foreign leader as blatant as Fidel Castro. Instead of a communist dictator flooding the United States out of spite, it is Joe Biden’s own incompetence and deliberate disregard for the border that is causing this situation. This is not to say that Jimmy Carter was not indecisive and ineffective. As thousands of Cubans crowded the Peruvian embassy due to embarrassment caused by Castro, he announced that anyone who had someone willing to pick them up could leave the port of Mariel. Consequently, Cubans in Miami hurriedly sailed in boats to collect their compatriots. Carter’s response was inconsistent, oscillating between promises to cut off the flow one day and declaring “ours is a country of refugees” the next. The day after his latter statement, 4,500 Cubans arrived, surpassing the total number Carter had initially agreed to accept. Although it is often said that Castro emptied out jails, it is more accurate to say that he mixed prisoners and mental patients among the migrants. Nicholas Griffin, author of “The Year of Dangerous Days,” estimates that only 4% of the arriving Cubans were criminals. Nonetheless, this unjustly tarnished the reputation of all the so-called Marielitos. When tens of thousands of people arrive with nothing, it becomes a burden, no matter the time or place. Miami pleaded for federal assistance and utilized the Orange Bowl as temporary shelter. The Cuban community demonstrated genuine generosity and a desire to assist the newcomers, unlike a situation one might find in Martha’s Vineyard. However, the then-Democratic governor, Bob Graham, echoed the sentiments of today’s Democrats in areas grappling with a mass influx of migrants, expressing concerns about job competition, pressure on schools, and welfare support. Similar to the current crisis, African Americans in Miami also voiced dissatisfaction with the excessive attention and resources directed towards recently arrived individuals. They felt that their own community had been patiently waiting for assistance, but their turn hadn’t come yet. While the boatlift wasn’t Carter’s biggest political problem, it contributed to the perception of a loss of control. Carter acknowledged this by stating, “It’s a mess, but we’re doing the best we can.” To his credit, he didn’t go to bed afterward, as his successor in the White House might have done 40 years later. In the fall of 1980, Castro put an end to the boatlift. However, in 2023, there is no indication that the individual most responsible for the current crisis, a president aligned with his party’s left, intends to stop the ongoing border debacle.

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