President Biden must seize opportunity to address border crisis with Mexican president
President Biden is set to meet with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and one topic should undoubtedly be on the agenda — the unrelenting influx of migrants crossing from Mexico into the United States across our southern border. It should be, but it likely won’t.
Former President Trump knew that Mexico has a responsibility to help stop migrants — who come not just from Central and South America, but from all over the world — from using their country as a throughway into the United States. That’s why he took steps such as implementing the “Remain in Mexico” program to ensure that migrants seeking asylum had to wait their turn on the Mexico side of the border and getting López Obrador to deploy Mexico’s National Guard to patrol along the border.
President Biden, on the other hand, has shown an abdication of leadership in every aspect of his handling of the border crisis. When he is not ignoring it completely, President Biden and his administration have made it more difficult for border officials to do their jobs while simultaneously signaling to the world that our border is open and vulnerable. The numbers speak for themselves. Since Biden took office, over 2.9 million illegal immigrants have been apprehended at our southern border. In May, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended 239,416 migrants at the southern border — the highest number of apprehensions in one month in CBP’s history.
Between halting construction of the border wall and actively working to remove critical border protection tools like “Title 42” and “Remain in Mexico,” the Biden administration has made it clear that ending this humanitarian and national security crisis is far from a priority. But it is a priority for the American people. A recent Gallup poll showed that 60 percent of Americans are worried about illegal immigration either “a fair amount” or a “great deal.”
I have spoken to officials on both sides of the border, and I know there is an opportunity to work together. Just last week I traveled to Mexico with a delegation of my fellow members of Congress and had numerous conversations with officials, private sector leaders, and other stakeholders about the ramifications of the immigration crisis facing both countries.
One issue with cross-border implications is the exploding fentanyl crisis. Cartels are profiting off of thriving drug trafficking operations made possible by the weakened state of our border security. There is an unprecedented amount of fentanyl flowing across the border from Mexico, exacerbating the existing opioid crisis by saturating the market with these deadly synthetic drugs. Citizens in both Mexico and the U.S. are falling victim to fentanyl abuse and overdosing at record rates as a result.
When cartels and gangs grow more emboldened, violent crime spreads. Mexican law enforcement I spoke to noted a rise in murders, kidnappings and other violent crime as a result of the cartels’ growing footprint. In the U.S., members of transnational gangs like MS-13, which plagues my district on Long Island, are continuing to stream into our country.
Cartels and gangs are not the only criminals the border crisis has given an opening to. Since October alone, at least fifty people on the Terrorist Screening Database have been apprehended attempting to illegally enter the U.S. – a 200 percent increase from all of the previous fiscal year. This is especially concerning when you consider the nearly 800,000 “gotaways”, or migrants estimated to have bypassed border patrol without being apprehended, since President Biden took office.
The American people are rightly concerned about the threat to national security, public safety, and public health brought on by President Biden’s open border policies. He has a chance to address these concerns with López Obrador and push the Mexican president to take action to stop undocumented migrants within his own borders, and before they reach ours. I urge him to take this opportunity to secure our border before he makes this crisis even worse.
Andrew R. Garbarino represents New York’s 2nd District and sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security.