Biden’s border crisis is creating a ‘sanctuary country’
A 2,200-word memo from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, released March 16, attempts to convince the front-line defenders of our nation’s borders, along with the American people, that the crisis thrust upon us by the Biden administration isn’t really a crisis at all but merely a “difficult” situation.
This effort to redirect the reality of what it means to apprehend more than 100,000 migrants illegally crossing our borders in a single month is an affront to our country and to the men and women trying to secure our borders. Apprehension figures skyrocketed over the past several weeks, at a rate eclipsing what we saw during the border crisis of 2019, and detention facilities are filled dangerously, beyond their COVID-mandated capacity.
The specifics concerning the magnitude of the crisis, such as the exact numbers of those being released directly into local border communities by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as well as those being transported further into the U.S. interior by other federal agencies, has become increasingly difficult to obtain through official channels. The Biden administration has locked down media and other public access to data and immigration detention facilities, while the White House has declined to answer questions about what’s happening and dismissing suggestions of an unfolding crisis.
Large areas of our borders are going unprotected as agents and officers are pulled from their national security mission to address the surge of families and unaccompanied minors. The same workforce is being directed to release thousands of migrants into the U.S. who entered illegally. Essential COVID-related restrictions have been lifted for overcrowded facilities to accommodate the crisis-level numbers. Effective tools, policies and authorities have been eliminated with no warning, and nothing put in their place except for ambiguous messages to those illegally entering our borders: “Don’t come now.”
In the midst of all this, Secretary Mayorkas’ memo reads more like a campaign speech than a substantive, honest depiction of what’s happening along our Southwest border. And rather than take responsibility for the administration’s part in creating the crisis, he misdirects, spins and lies to the very men and women he’s putting in harm’s way as they navigate the unmitigated disaster this White House has allowed through its ideological hubris.
It’s painfully obvious the secretary is looking to deflect blame when he opines about the perceived failings of the previous administration, rewrites history and inserts his own facts. What he doesn’t say is how exhaustive were the briefings provided to the Biden transition team concerning the state of the border, including the effectiveness of the network tools and policies in place to address the illegal migration crisis we saw in 2019.
Border security experts warned about the consequences of removing these policies. The Biden team heard that Border Patrol stations didn’t have adequate capacity to handle the surge that would follow; they heard that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not have the detention capacity, either. They heard that smuggling organizations would exploit the perception (not to mention the reality) that our borders would be wide open. But they dismissed the experts’ advice and rushed to dismantle the entire system — all in the name of politics. Now, as the country sees this as the crisis it is and recognizes that the Biden administration was not prepared, they’re scrambling to play the blame game.
The memo states that “we are not expelling unaccompanied children.” Well, that’s not accurate according to both the law and reality of what’s happening. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), the U.S. removes unaccompanied minors from contiguous countries (Mexico and Canada) who have not been trafficked; we do not remove them if they are from non-contiguous countries, whether they were trafficked or not. In essence, we treat unaccompanied minors differently based on their proximity to our borders. Not only is this representative of a significant broken aspect of our immigration system — for which we have sought a legislative fix — but also illustrates the misinformation currently being provided. As the CBP’s former acting commissioner, I know that a significant percentage of unaccompanied minors are Mexican nationals who are promptly expelled. However, to further reduce the introduction of COVID-19 into the U.S., the Biden administration had the authority, under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order, to remove those entering the country illegally, including minors — yet it intentionally decided not to remove unaccompanied minors from non-contiguous countries while continuing to remove those from contiguous countries. Predictably, human smugglers seized on this opportunity, pushing unprecedented numbers across our borders.
Secretary Mayorkas highlights the encounter of tender-aged minors but omits the fact that HHS statistics show 75 percent of unaccompanied minors are older teenagers (some of whom may not even be minors) who are not being “ripped” from their parents’ arms and are not victims of state-sponsored persecution; they are coming here simply to look for jobs.
The memo fails to mention how many migrants are abused on their journey to the U.S., jammed into overcrowded, unsanitary “stash houses” for days or weeks, or the horrific toll of human trafficking. Where is the humanity in encouraging and incentivizing these dangers?
Secretary Mayorkas’ memo states that “we are expelling most single adults and families.” That, too, seems inaccurate: Some days the percentage of families being released into local communities appears to have exceeded 80 percent of those apprehended, according to local community officials and other reports. Another fact Mayorkas did not mention is that CBP’s open-air facilities are overcrowded with more than 8,000 migrants, increasing the risks of exposure to COVID-19 for the workforce and for migrants themselves — the opposite of the intended purpose of the Trump administration’s Title 42 order, which allowed the majority of illegal immigrants to be returned immediately back across the border because of COVID-19.
Secretary Mayorkas goes on strategically to omit that untold thousands of migrants have been released into local communities, with many testing positive for COVID-19. How is this “safeguard[ing] the American public and the migrants themselves” while we’re still navigating a global pandemic?
I’m more than confident that Border Patrol agents would respectfully disagree with the secretary telling them how the current rate of 3,000 or more apprehensions a day doesn’t “pose an operational challenge,” especially as they’re experiencing a significant surge in families and unaccompanied minors. To suggest otherwise is absurd, insulting to the incredible men and women of CBP, and defies all reality of what it takes to protect our borders.
Make no mistake — the Biden administration is moving forward with its intended strategy of creating a system to release those who illegally cross our borders as fast as they can while simultaneously preventing the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to lawfully remove them. They are essentially creating reception centers on the front end and a sanctuary country on the back end.
Mark Morgan is a senior fellow at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). He was chief of the U.S. Border Patrol during the Obama administration, and acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) during the Trump administration. From 1996 to 2016 he was an FBI special agent, retiring as an assistant director of the bureau’s training division.