AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
As the Biden administration plows ahead with it’s plans to end Title 42, a Trump-era border policy that restricted entry into the country due to COVID-19 concerns, on May 23, border officials have warned that the already drastic border crisis is set to get dramatically worse. In response to concerns from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about rescinding Title 42 and Biden’s border policy generally, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a 20-page “plan” outlining the administration’s strategy to deal with the expected surge in illegal border crossings. But even a cursory examination of the document quickly reveals that it promises to do little to alleviate the desperate reality on the ground in border states.
With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world in 2020, the CDC, under former President Trump, issued a public health order that granted law enforcement at the border the authority to turn away and swiftly expel migrants on account of concerns over the spread of the virus. Democrats, including then-candidate Joe Biden, were quick to label the policy “racist” and “inhumane,” even as they argued for more stringent pandemic restrictions.
Once Biden took office, however, and massive caravans of migrants began making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border under the belief that the newly installed Biden administration would simply let them in (as he had so often promised to do throughout his campaign), Title 42 became a convenient tool for the White House to stem somewhat the growing tidal wave of illegal immigration.
Notwithstanding these de minimis efforts to use Title 42, the Biden administration has presided over the worst border crisis on record, with daily encounters now reaching more than 7,800 per day, according to Customs and Border Patrol data. In March, CBP reported more than 221,000 land encounters, a 33% spike over the previous month and more than four times the average seen in March from 2014-2019. 2021 was already the worst year on record with more than 2 million arrests – and those are just the ones who were caught.
But despite these harrowing statistics, amid pressure from pro-immigration groups, the CDC announced on April 1 that it planned to end Title 42 on May 23, sparking immediate blowback from GOP lawmakers as well as Democrats from border states. Arizona Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly (who faces a tough reelection battle this year) sent a letter to Biden urging him to keep Title 42 in place until the administration had a plan to deal with the inevitable surge in immigration that would follow. In Nevada, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak similarly warned the President about rescinding Title 42, while Biden has also received pushback from Democrat Sens. Raphael Warnock (GA), Gary Peters (MI) and Maggie Hassan (NH), among others.
Apparently in an attempt to placate these Democrats and avoid an even more complete party split over immigration, Mayorkas announced his “Plan for Southwest Border Security and Preparedness” last Tuesday.
But the Mayorkas plan is almost entirely devoid of any actual measures to increase border security or prepare anyone for the predicted surge. Instead, it focuses almost entirely on ways to increase “processing efficiency” – in other words, getting as many migrants into the country as possible.
For example, the first of six “border security pillars” that the plan outlines says that DHS plans to surge resources, “including personnel, transportation, medical support, and facilities to support border operations” so that “by May 23, we will be prepared to hold approximately 18,000 noncitizens in CBP custody at any given time.” While that figure is up from the 13,000 “noncitizens” CBP was able to hold at the beginning of 2021, it still pales in comparison to the 12,000-18,000 daily encounters CBP is expecting in the coming months. If the last 15 months are any indication, DHS will likely simply start releasing tens of thousands of illegal immigrants into the interior of the country once that capacity is reached.
The only mention of actually preventing individuals from entering the country illegally is a vague promise to “strictly enforce our immigration laws,” a pledge that rings rather hollow given that the administration has done nothing of the sort since taking office last January. The plan makes no mention of Trump’s border wall (which Biden has halted construction on, a decision that Mayorkas says cost taxpayers $72 million) or providing assistance to border communities that have been devastated by the crisis, but does promise to make efforts to process migrants en route to the United States, “bolster the capacity of NGOs to receive noncitizens,” and only detain single adults “when appropriate.”
Incredibly, Mayorkas also blames Trump for the crisis at the border, saying that Biden inherited a “broken and dismantled immigration system,” just after shrugging off responsibility for the border altogether by saying that “we are operating within a fundamentally broken immigration system that only Congress can fix.”
In perhaps the most telling indictment of Mayorkas’s plan, border officials and immigration experts alike have ripped it as utterly ridiculous and only likely to make the crisis worse. One current border patrol agent said that “nothing in this plan Mayorkas says he’s going to do has even been started, and he’s not going to do it anyway.” A senior DHS staffer slammed the plan as “an absolute load of bulls***” and said that “this administration has always been set to release as many migrants as possible and then make excuses as to why illegal aliens continue invading our country,” while another DHS official suggested that “Mayorkas needs drug testing because I swear he’s high.”
But it seems unlikely that any of these comments or any objective view of the facts will deter Mayorkas or Joe Biden from their current destructive path on immigration. In a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee last Wednesday, Mayorkas struck a defiant tone, claiming that Biden has “effectively managed” the border.
Americans concerned about the border crisis may have to wait until November for some accountability, as House Republicans have hinted that Mayorkas could face impeachment should they retake the majority. Even then, however, the odds of Biden reversing course on his radical immigration agenda appear slim. It may thus be up to border communities and state and local officials to shoulder the burden of this crisis, until voters have a chance to choose a new direction in the White House in 2024.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.