We’ll take a break from the pandemic and vaccination rollout today to turn our attention to the first major crisis of the Biden administration, now worsening by the day on our southern border. President Biden deploys what I call “the Malarkey Maneuver”; the Biden administration issues an unwritten gag order to U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and a House Democratic subcommittee chairman calls Kevin McCarthy a liar . . . when McCarthy turned out to be right. If only someone had foreseen that electing a Democratic administration would create the perception of amnesty and open borders across Central America!
Joe Biden and the Malarkey Maneuver
In his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos — you know, that guy who worked as a top communications aide in the Clinton White House when President Biden was a senator — Biden rejected the notion that his rhetoric or policy shifts prompted the current surge of migrants heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The idea that Joe Biden said, ‘Come’ — because I heard the other day that they’re coming because they know I’m a nice guy, here’s the deal, they’re not,” he said.
Call it the Malarkey Maneuver: When Joe Biden gets accused of something unsavory, he just emphatically insists it isn’t true and hopes that resolves the issue. “My son did nothing wrong!” “This never happened!” “You’re a damn liar!” “You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier!”
I guess that just like Vox and the Migrant Policy Institute, Biden thinks it’s just a coincidence that this migration surge intensified the way it did after he took office — and that it’s just a matter of post-pandemic economic conditions and the hurricanes. Has anyone read the New York Times to Biden?
[Enrique] Valenzuela, a coordinator for the Mexican government’s migration efforts in Chihuahua State, knew that if he couldn’t get to them to offer help, organized crime networks who prey on migrants’ desperation to extort or kidnap them for ransom probably would.
The migrants — nine adults and 10 children — wiped their tears as Mr. Valenzuela drew near. The moment was one of several such scenes of despair and confusion witnessed by New York Times journalists at the border over three days.
“The border is closed,” Mr. Valenzuela said. “Come with me, I will help.” He led the group to his office near the rusty border wall that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juárez, topped with miles of new concertina wire installed in the final weeks of President Donald J. Trump’s administration, officials said.
Jenny Contreras, a 19-year-old Guatemalan mother of a 3-year-old girl, collapsed in a seat as Mr. Valenzuela handed out hand sanitizer.
“I did not make it,” she sobbed into the phone as she spoke with her husband, a butcher in Chicago.
“Biden promised us!” wailed another woman.
Many of the migrants said they had spent their life savings and gone into debt to pay coyotes — human smugglers — who had falsely promised them that the border was open after President Biden’s election.
Sure, the human smugglers are lying to those they want to exploit. But if the human smugglers had told their victims that Donald Trump had opened the borders and was now welcoming workers from Central America . . . would any of those poor migrants have believed those claims?
When Biden took office and announced that he was pausing deportations for 100 days, that ICE would no longer deport immigrants for crimes such as driving under the influence and assault, and that he would cease border-fencing construction . . . didn’t that promise from the human smugglers seem a little more plausible?
Just a Little Administration Gag Order, Nothing to Worry About
NBC News offers accounts from Customs and Border Patrol agents that contend the Biden administration is now attempting to deal with the overwhelming influx of migrants by just making it harder for the news media to report on it:
The Biden administration is restricting the information Border Patrol agents and sector chiefs can share with the media as a surge of migrants tests the agency’s capacity at the southern border, according to four current and two former Customs and Border Protection officials.
The officials say the restrictions are seen as an unofficial “gag order” and are often referred to that way among colleagues. The officials requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media about the topic.
Border Patrol officials have been told to deny all media requests for “ride-alongs” with agents along the southern land border; local press officers are instructed to send all information queries, even from local media, to the press office in Washington for approval; and those responsible for cultivating data about the number of migrants in custody have been reminded not to share the information with anyone to prevent leaks, the officials said.
Multiple news organizations, including NBC News, have requested access to or photos from inside overcrowded border processing facilities holding unaccompanied migrant children; they have been denied.
Man, if the Trump administration did this, we would be hearing top-of-the-lungs screaming about a police state in which the administration abuses innocent people and hides it all, suppressing the truth with ruthless zeal. But it’s Biden, so . . . we’ll see how many people are really bothered by the White House issuing gag orders to the rest of the executive branch.
Whoops! It Turns Out Kevin McCarthy Wasn’t Wrong or Lying.
Ronald Reagan used to joke, “Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”
The Washington Post, March 16:
Speaking outside El Paso on Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said border agents he had met earlier that day issued dire warnings that suspected terrorists are trying to cross into the United States via Mexico.
“You saw it in their eyes,” McCarthy said, referring to the agents. “They talked about, ‘They’re on the list.’ . . . The terrorist watch list.”
McCarthy’s claims, which were echoed by another Republican congressman, were among the most alarming raised by a GOP delegation that aimed to highlight a growing crisis for the Biden administration amid a surge of migrants.
But some Democrats from border states pushed back late on Monday and demanded evidence to back up McCarthy’s assertions.
“Weird as the Chairman of the subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations and a border state member of Congress haven’t heard anything about this,” tweeted Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat who represents the Phoenix area. “Gonna ask for a briefing. Pretty sure he is either wrong or lying.”
Vox assured us, “Republicans revive one of Trump’s most notorious immigration lies. They’re attacking Biden with fact-free claims about terrorists crossing the southern border.”
How about neither wrong nor lying? How about Kevin McCarthy is more up-to-speed about what’s going on at the border than Ruben Gallego is?
The Customs and Border Protection agency confirmed to Congress today that four people arrested at the southern border since Oct. 1 match names on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database, a congressional aide briefed on the correspondence told Axios.
Why it matters: Three of the people arrested were from Yemen and one was from Serbia. The four arrests are more than the number of similar people taken into custody during recent full fiscal years, according to the source. In fiscal 2018, six people from Yemen and Bangladesh were arrested.
After Axios published its report, Gallego tweeted, “I am the Chairman of the Intelligence & Special Operations Subcommittee. I had a briefing 90 minutes ago. What I can say is that the IC evaluates all threats and reports. What I saw is a far cry from what we got out of the Minority Leader earlier today.”
But let’s think about this for a second. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol encounters tens of thousands of people a month on the southern border — anywhere from 17,000 in April 2020, right after the pandemic, to more than 100,000 last month. That adds up to a half-million to a million encounters per year. The FBI’s terrorist-screening database had more than 1.5 million names on it as of 2014.
What are the odds that out of all those people attempting to cross the border, month after month, year after year, not a single one would have any connection to terrorism? We know terrorists who are on foreign soil would like to get into the United States. Yes, a lot of past terrorists entered the country through legal visa programs. But is it really that unthinkable that a terrorist, or someone with ties to terrorists, might try to cross over from Mexico?
How could a guy such as Gallego, who keeps reminding us that he’s the chairman of the Intelligence & Special Operations Subcommittee, come to the conclusion that someone on the terror-watch list trying to cross the border was impossible, which is not a synonym for “rare”?
Yes, the overwhelming majority of people attempting to cross the border are not terrorists. But this is why we want everyone who enters the country to do so legally — so that we can check to make sure they’re not one of the people we would like to keep out, for entirely non-xenophobic reasons. And there are individuals we would want to keep out beyond terrorists, such as gang members, violent criminals, and drug smugglers. Whether or not there are a lot of them, we would all agree people like that should be kept out of the country, right?
Democrats want to conflate “rare” and “impossible.” Everyone would agree it is a waste of time, energy, and resources to try to prevent something that is impossible. But we put a lot of time and resources into trying to prevent or mitigate the harm from things that are rare — intense earthquakes, high-rise fires, school shooters. Certain problems such as plane crashes, bridge collapses, and elevator accidents are rare in part because we put time and resources into trying to prevent them.
ADDENDA: Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. I hope New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas celebrates by getting some more guys to wear green.
. . . I think Frank Fleming summarized the spirits of the day well: “‘Irish’ is a prefix that means ‘contains alcohol’ such as ‘Irish coffee,’ ‘Irish cream,’ and ‘Irish man.’”
The New York Post reports that Andrew Cuomo’s staffers aren’t coming into the office anymore. “I hear that most people aren’t even coming into work, and the offices at the Capitol are empty.” As Leslie Dowd calls it: “Cuomentum!”