Director of the Domestic Policy Council | Former National Security Advisor | Former Ambassador to the United Nations
As Director of the Domestic Policy Council (DPC), Susan Rice largely stays out of the public eye, yet her influence can be felt throughout President Biden’s immigration and border strategy. Increasingly, she has steered the administration away from its early campaign promises to counter former President Trump’s border policy with a more liberal one, instead focusing on more aggressive enforcement policies aimed at deterring the unprecedented surge in migration at the southern U.S. border.
As early as the spring of 2020, there were rumors that Rice would have a role in the Biden administration, but many commentators were surprised when she was ultimately tapped as director of the DPC. As a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Advisor to the Obama administration, Rice’s background seemed a better fit for a position shaping foreign policy. Indeed, she was once Obama’s top choice to replace former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, but was forced to drop out of the running after coming under fire from Republicans for defending the Obama administration’s response to the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Reserving Rice for a behind-the-scenes job — and one that did not require a confirmation hearing — was likely a move designed to spare her another public melee.
Even before she took office, Rice cautioned that easing the Trump administration’s hawkish immigration restrictions too quickly might encourage migrants and asylum seekers to come to the southern border before the government established the capacity to process them. When migrants did indeed begin to arrive, setting off record border apprehensions in mid-2021, Rice directed a pivot toward enforcement and deterrence. She nixed a plan to vaccinate migrants in U.S. custody, arguing that it might incentivize border crossing, and scrapped early efforts to end Title 42 deportations. She was also reportedly one of several officials who pushed for the rapid deportation of thousands of Haitian nationals who arrived en masse in Del Rio, Texas, in late summer 2021, arguing that an early crackdown would dissuade others from making the trek in the future. Critics viewed the deportations as particularly harsh due to extreme instability in Haiti, a country that many of the migrants had fled years ago to settle across South America before beginning their journeys to the U.S.
Rice’s influence demonstrates the extent to which the administration has had to rein in its early ambition on immigration and border security reform. Indeed, the emphasis on damage control on the border may ultimately sidetrack Rice’s own initial plans. In an interview before taking office, she outlined a three-pillar immigration plan that would commit $4 billion in aid over four years to struggling Northern Triangle countries, expand family reunification and employment-based immigration opportunities, and expedite the asylum process while minimizing immigrant detention. Whether she can still achieve these goals during her tenure remains to be seen.
- Biden Advisers: It will take ‘months’ to reestablish asylum at the border EFE — December 21, 2020
- 51 Former Senior National Security Officials to Supreme Court: Rescinding DACA Was ‘Arbitrary and Capricious’ Just Security — October 4, 2019
- Exclusive: Full Text of Bipartisan Declaration of Former Senior U.S. Officials Refuting President’s Claim of a National Emergency at Southern Border Just Security — February 25, 2019
- Rice Ends Bid for Secretary of State, and Fight With G.O.P. New York Times — December 13, 2012
- Biden’s Top 12 Running Mates, Ranked Politico — March 17, 2020
- U.S. Foreign Policy in the Western Hemisphere C-SPAN — March 17, 2016
- The Risks of Susan Rice Foreign Policy — July 29, 2020
- Biden looks to Susan Rice to elevate low-profile Domestic Policy Council NBC News — December 21, 2020
- Biden Pushes Deterrent Border Policy After Promising ‘Humane’ Approach New York Times — September 22, 2021
- Biden Immigration Policy Marred by Internal Rifts: ‘A Recipe for Disaster’ Wall Street Journal — November 18, 2021
- Biden’s border woes expose White House divisions as centrists assert more control Washington Post — November 8, 2021
- Rice, Rice, Baby Politico — October 7, 2021