Biden failed to reconcile border policy with the science: Hundreds of thousands cross unvaccinated

Biden failed to reconcile border policy with the science: Hundreds of thousands cross unvaccinated
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When Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE was campaigning for the presidency, his plan for securing our values as a nation of immigrants included a promise to reverse Trump’s immigration enforcement and border security measures. To a great extent, he has kept that promise.

He also promised to “follow the science” in fighting COVID-19.

Politicians should keep their campaign promises. Biden should have waited until the deadly COVID-19 pandemic was over before reversing Trump’s border security measures — or at the very least implemented scientific protocols at the border not only to prevent the spread of the virus among migrants who cross the border illegally, but also to prevent them from bringing the virus — including potentially dangerous variants — into the interior of the U.S. 

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CDC’s order suspending the admission of certain aliens

Last March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that admitting certain aliens from Canada and Mexico created a serious danger of bringing COVID-19 into the United States, regardless of their country of origin. Accordingly, it issued an order temporarily prohibiting the admission of such aliens pursuant to its authority under sections 362 and 365 of the Public Health Service Act (pages 378 and 381).

The order permitted the rapid expulsion of aliens who would otherwise be held in crowded areas while being processed at a Port of Entry or a Border Patrol station. These areas were not designed to isolate or permit social distancing of persons who are or may be infected with a highly transmissible disease. 

Typically, this applied to aliens seeking admission without proper documents and aliens apprehended after making an illegal crossing at a land border.

On Feb. 17, Biden announced an exception for unaccompanied alien children.

The Border Patrol apprehends thousands of unaccompanied alien children every month at the border with Mexico: 5,688 in January; 9,269 in February; 18,724 in March; 16,910 in April; and 13,906 in May. Department of Health and Human Services (HHSstatistics indicate that about 75 percent of the children are between the ages of 15 and 17, but more than 100 unaccompanied children each month this year were under six years of age.

But it’s not just children.

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The “Remain in Mexico” program

Trump also established the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) program, which has been referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. It required certain aliens entering or seeking admission to the United States from Mexico — illegally or without proper documentation — to return to Mexico and wait there for the duration of their immigration proceedings.

Trump claimed that this provided a safer and more orderly immigration process which discouraged individuals from taking advantage of our immigration system by making a false persecution claim just to be able to enter and remain in the United States.

Biden paused that program shortly after taking office on Jan. 20, allowing around 11,000 of the aliens in the program to enter the United States before ending the program entirely on June 1.

It is too soon to determine how many of the 68,000 people who were returned to Mexico pursuant to this program will be entering the United States to wait here for the duration of their immigration proceedings. No one knows how many new asylum seekers will come now that the program has been ended.

In any case, ending the MPP program almost certainly will cause a surge in asylum cases for our immigration courts, which already are struggling unsuccessfully with a 1,322,938-case backlog. The average wait for a hearing is 934 days.

Surge at the border

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claims that the "open-border policies" of the Biden administration have caused a surge in illegal border crossings. The numbers support Abbott.

Encounters at the southwest border averaged around 70,000 a month in the four months before Biden took office, and then rose to 97,640 in February, his first full month in office; to 169,204 in March; to 173,686 in April; and were 172,011 in May.

Almost all of them originate from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala — and the COVID-19 vaccination rate in those countries has been very low. As of June 12, only a very small percentage of their populations had been fully vaccinated: Mexico – 12 percent; Honduras – 0.6 percent; El Salvador - 14 percent; and Guatemala – 0.8 percent.

This means that 612,541 illegal crossers were apprehended during the first four months of the Biden presidency. The adult and family units making these crossings are not likely to have been vaccinated.

Dealing with migrants from countries with low vaccination rates has been very hazardous for the border patrol. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 8,600 CBP employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and 31 have passed away

We are still in the midst of a pandemic

According to CDC estimates, as of June 11, 52 percent (171 million) of the 328 million people in the United States had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination. But this also means that 48 percent (157 million) still have no protection, and resistance to being vaccinated is growing.

According to Beth Blauer, who helps to run the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, a growing number of states are slowing or winding down their reports on COVID-19 cases.

But COVID-19 is still killing more than 200 people a day in the U.S.

COVID-19 variants are also a problem. Officials are warning people about highly contagious variants that could set back national progress against the pandemic if they become more widespread. The Delta variant rapidly established dominance in the United Kingdom (U.K.). It currently makes up more than 90 percent of all COVID-19 cases there. It already makes up more than 6 percent of the cases in the United States.

The real fear is a variant that does not respond to current vaccines.

If the Biden administration is going to let people from low-vaccination countries into the U.S., he should at least test them for COVID-19 before releasing them.

Astonishingly, it’s not easy to confirm that’s happening — which may be an indication it’s not.

In March — according to a fact-check by an Austin, Texas, TV new station — the federal government appeared to have released more than 100 migrants into the interior who later tested positive. According to the TV station, “Border Patrol doesn’t have the resources,” to do the testing, so local Texas communities were testing the migrants released to them. The report noted those communities “can’t stop those (migrants) from traveling elsewhere.”

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All air passengers over the age of two who are coming to the U.S. from a foreign country — including citizens and lawful permanent residents — have to be tested for COVID-19 no more than three days before they board their flight to the U.S.

Why should the standard be less strict for undocumented aliens coming here from countries with very low vaccination rates?

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow his blog at https://nolanrappaport.blogspot.com.