Politics & Policy

Biden’s Failure at Del Rio

Migrants rush into the Rio Grande River near the International Bridge between Mexico and the United States as they saw Mexican police patrolling the area in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, September 19, 2021. (Go Nakamura/Reuters)

A crisis is a terrible thing to create.

The incredible scenes in Del Rio, Texas, over the last week of the formation of an instant migrant encampment of 15,000 people on U.S. soil are a direct result of the Biden administration’s feckless policies at the border.

The administration and its apologists blame the spread of bad information for the decision of Haiti migrants to travel en masse to Del Rio, but it was really the spread of good information — the presumption that they could make it into the U.S. and some significant number of them would be allowed to stay.

This is exactly what’s happening, despite attempts by the administration at misdirection.

Earlier in the week, secretary of homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas, whose job consists in part of giving transparently false assurances about border security, traveled to Del Rio to say the border is closed.

Never mind that migrants walked unimpeded across the Rio Grande by the thousands to get to Del Rio, that some of them have been shuttling back and forth from the U.S. to Mexico to get supplies, and that once arriving in U.S. territory they had to take numbers and wait under the International Bridge to be formally apprehended.

Mayorkas said the migrants would be deported, but this was only partially true. Some indeed were flown back to Haiti, apparently mostly single adults. Releases into the U.S., meanwhile, have been happening on a “very, very large scale,” according to a U.S. official who spoke to the Associated Press. These migrants have been getting a so-called notice to appear at a future court proceeding or an even more toothless notice to report, basically a request to check in with immigration authorities.

The flights to Haiti have frightened many migrants back into Mexico, and Mexican authorities who looked the other way while the migrants headed to the U.S. border (see this excellent report from CIS) have finally stepped up to help by moving them back to points farther south in Mexico.

As the camp under the Del Rio bridge breaks up, the administration will try to declare victory. But so long as large numbers of migrants are getting into the U.S., the ongoing crisis will continue.

An estimated 600,000 migrants have been released into the United States this year with notices to appear or report, and hundreds of thousands of others have been “got-aways,” or escaped into the country without any processing at all.

The enforcement system built at the end of the Trump administration was based on the insight that almost all asylum claims at the southern border are bogus and those making them can’t be permitted into the United States because, even if their claims are ultimately rejected, they will never be deported once here.

This led to the creation of programs and the use of authorities to exclude migrants in the first place and to make them pursue asylum claims elsewhere or to stay in Mexico while their claims are being adjudicated here.

Biden tore much of this up for no good reason and has been letting in migrants who have no legitimate claim to asylum. The Haitian migrants are a case in point. They are obviously desperate and deserve our sympathy. Yet many of them were living in Brazil or Chile for years prior to coming to our border by traveling through other countries. Even if they fear persecution in Haiti, they had ample opportunity to apply for asylum in the countries where they were living or have been transiting.

It is a symptom of the administration’s reflexive opposition to enforcement that Kamala Harris and Jen Psaki have joined the misleading media pile-on against two Border Patrol agents on horseback falsely accused of whipping Haiti migrants. The agents didn’t whip anyone — they had reins, not whips, and didn’t use them to strike the migrants they were trying to keep from coming across the Rio Grande.

It’s bizarre that two of the very few federal officers even attempting to keep illegal crossers from gaining entry into the U.S. at Del Rio have been made the villain of the drama.

With the encampment under the bridge dwindling, workers have begun dismantling and carting away temporary shelters. The larger mess at the border will remain.

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