Biden officials don’t want to call it a crisis, but the challenge, matter of concern, situation, or whatever euphemistic term they are applying to the border today is running out of control.
DHS has warned of potentially the biggest wave of migrants in two decades, and the number crossing the border has doubled since January.
The surge is especially pronounced among minors. The number of minors crossing every day has tripled since the end of last year and is on a pace to set a record this month. More than 8,500 minors are currently in HHS shelters, with 3,500 waiting in Border Patrol facilities designed for adults where they are only supposed to spend 72 hours but are staying longer.
The Biden administration has opened up one tent city and is planning more. And it has eliminated the social-distancing guidelines that had limited how many migrants could be kept in shelters.
Indications are that parents are sending the minors — and sometimes traveling with them up to the border and then splitting up — in the belief that they will gain entry into the United States and never leave.
This is a well-founded belief. Only about 4 percent of minors who have come to the United States in recent years have been returned home. They are released to relatives in the U.S., who are also likely to be illegal immigrants, and even if they are eventually ordered removed, we don’t have the resources or the will to see that it happens.
The latest border surge is entirely Biden’s doing. That his rhetoric and policies would create a new crisis was predictable, and indeed, it was predicted.
Bad court decisions, foolhardy practices, and at least one law with major unintended consequences had made it almost impossible to keep Central American family units and unaccompanied minors from gaining entry to the U.S. largely never to leave again. Even President Trump, who won election in 2016 in large part on a promise to control the border, saw the border get swamped in 2018 and 2019 when he wasn’t able to quickly return illegal immigrants home.
But the Trump administration eventually got a handle on the crisis. It tightened up the asylum rules that were abused by bogus asylum-seekers to gain entry into the United States. He worked with Mexico to create the Migrant Protection Protocols, or Remain in Mexico policy, that kept migrants in Mexico while their asylum claims were processed in the U.S. It forged so-called safe-third-country agreements with Northern Triangle countries to provide migrants claiming persecution in their home country an opportunity to claim asylum in another Central American country.
Even prior to the pandemic, the migrant flow had slowed considerably. Finally, with the onset of COVID, the Trump administration used Title 42 of the Public Health Safety Act to exclude all migrants.
None of this, it is worth noting, involved the family separations that came with “zero tolerance,” a policy that was quickly reversed.
Now, the Biden administration is reversing many of the Trump policies. It has created an exemption from Title 42 for minors. This, of course, has created an enormous incentive for minors to show up at the border. And it has ditched MPP, thus throwing away a tool for allowing only deserving asylum-seekers into the U.S. rather than waving everyone in regardless of the merits.
It is galling that, while deliberating undoing the Trump policies that were shown to work, the Biden team is claiming that the current crisis is a function of having to rebuild from scratch an immigration system trashed by Biden’s predecessor. There are all sorts of euphemisms that can be applied to this claim, but it isn’t remotely true.