If you feel like you’re hearing a lot about immigration, here’s why

A spokesperson for the White House said in a statement that Biden has supported “comprehensive immigration reform since his first day in office,” and blamed House Republicans for blocking efforts, including the approval of $4 billion to address the needs of the Department of Homeland Security.

A Trump-era immigration border policy put in place during the pandemic was lifted by the Biden administration in May. The Covid-related restriction had allowed border patrol agents to quickly turn away migrants at the border for the past three years, but with its ending, the U.S. has seen an uptick following fears of a surge that didn’t immediately materialize.  

Now, that has prominent voices beyond politicians trying to drive the conversation. Tech billionaire Elon Musk visited the Texas border with Mexico last week, posting in a video-selfie on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the “situation is beyond insane and growing fast,” and called for the overhaul of a legal immigration system that also bars migrants “breaking the law.”

Musk is himself an immigrant from South Africa and called himself “extremely pro-immigrant,” Reuters reported.

A.J. Bauer, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Alabama who focuses on right-wing media, said a ratcheting up of hard-line language is only going to embolden the anti-migrant sentiment rather than provide actual solutions.

The anti-immigration far right may “amplify a ‘crisis’ narrative on the border — that pretty directly serves their open ideological ends, and it isn’t particularly new,” Bauer said. “I am more troubled by the ‘crisis’ rhetoric coming out of Democratic office holders like Mayor Adams and Gov. Hochul.”

“Their rhetoric and stunts extend right-wing framing into mainstream and liberal discourse in ways that only aid and abet the right,” Bauer added.

The issue has remained a consistent one for former President Donald Trump, who in remarks outside the courtroom of his civil financial fraud trial on Monday attacked the Biden administration for “what they’ve done with open borders … it’s a disgrace.”

While Republicans have been largely unified on supporting border enforcement, there are growing divisions on how to tackle immigration among Democrats following the influx of migrants being bused to cities like New York, likely putting the issue “at the center of a lot of right-wing media messages in this campaign season,” said Matthew Sheffield, a former conservative media consultant and now publisher of Flux, an independent media outlet.

Reece Peck, an associate professor of media culture at the City University of New York-College of Staten Island, said he only expects coverage to intensify in the coming months, as presidential campaigning heats up.

Adding to the mix will be how the issue is amplified on social media sites such as X, owned by Musk.

Now, Peck said, someone like Musk can highlight a topic like few can.

“We’re at the end of the era, where the influence of the cable news-centric landscape of the 2000s is waning,” Peck said. “We’re watching the over-the-top streaming media sector, and Musk has positioned himself as this new conservative media baron setting an agenda where people are cutting the cord and not watching cable. He’s trying to play the role of Rupert Murdoch 2.0.”

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