Most Americans think surge of illegal border crossings is a crisis
Is there a border crisis? According to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, there isn’t — but the illegal crossing numbers indicate that there is.
Illegal border crossings have reached a 20-year high. In the four months before Biden took office, illegal crossings averaged 70,000 a month. The number rose to 97,640 in February, the first full month of Biden’s presidency; to 169,204 in March; and to 173,686 in April; and it was 172,011 in May.
Mayorkas claims that the numbers are misleading because they include the recidivists who make more than one illegal crossing.
Recidivism is becoming a major problem. Approximately 38 percent of the illegal crossers arrested in May had tried to cross at least one other time in the past year. That’s up from an average one-year recidivism rate of 15 percent between 2014 and 2019.
But the surge in recidivism is not a mitigating factor. It is part of the crisis.
It is happening because undocumented migrants can make as many illegal crossings as they want without fear of consequences. Illegal entry is a crime, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona didn’t prosecute any illegal crossers in May.
This encourages illegal crossers to keep trying until they succeed. Border security measures are meaningless when the people who are deported today can come back tomorrow.
And once they have succeeded in reaching the interior of the country, they are home free. It is extremely unlikely that they will be put in removal proceedings unless they are convicted of a serious crime in the United States.
Biden replaced the removal grounds that Congress passed with three priority categories. Enforcement actions are limited to deportable aliens who pose a threat to national security, border security, or public safety. Exceptions are possible, but they require preapproval from senior supervisors.
According to Ronald Vitiello, who was ICE’s acting director in 2018 and 2019, “The odds of being arrested just for being in the country illegally were always extremely low, and now they’ve basically ruled it out by policy.”
Most registered voters know there is a crisis
A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll that was taken between June 15-17, 2021, found that 74 percent of the registered voters polled think the surge in illegal border crossings is a crisis that must be addressed immediately.
This is particularly significant because 84 percent of them underestimated the number of illegal crossings. Only 7 percent knew that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 illegal crossings a month.
Only 36 percent think that Biden should continue his current border security polices; 64 percent think he should issue stricter policies to reduce illegal crossings.
Most voters (68 percent) think that Biden’s immigration executive orders encourage illegal immigration, and 55 percent think that his border policies are increasing the flow of drugs and crime into the United States.
More than half (55 percent) think that Biden should have left former president Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders in place.
Eighty percent consider illegal immigration to be a “serious” problem, and 43 percent responded that it is a “very serious” one.
Sixty seven percent think that illegal crossers should be turned back to Mexico.
A majority (61 percent) believe that the flood of tens of thousands of unaccompanied alien children is Biden’s fault.
The Border Patrol apprehends thousands of unaccompanied 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.
And according to the DHS Fiscal 2020 Enforcement Lifecycle Report, only 4.3 percent of the 290,000 unaccompanied children who came here between fiscal 2014, and fiscal 2019, were returned to their own countries.
State governors know too
The governors of 20 states sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last month asking them to take immediate action to end the crisis at the southern border. They claimed that the crisis is spilling over the border states into all of their states.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued disaster declarations to activate emergency resources for dealing with the crisis. This has authorized them to request help in securing their borders from the other states pursuant to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
They told the other states that help is needed to respond to the surge in illegal migration and “the accompanying threats to private property and to the safety of our citizens.” So far, four states have said they are going to send law enforcement officers.
State action is not a solution
Although the states may be able to arrest illegal crossers and charge them with state and local offenses, such as trespassing, they will not be able to return them to Mexico.
The presence of state and local police and national guardsmen in the vicinity of the border is likely to deter illegal crossings, but this will just divert the crossings to the California and New Mexico borders with Mexico.
This will be particularly hard on California. According to the DHS January 2021 estimates, California already has more undocumented aliens than any other state.
Biden knew his actions would cause a border crisis
The month before he was sworn in, Biden said he wasn’t going to make good on his immigration campaign promises right away. If he ended Trump’s remain in Mexico program and the rest of his border security measures too soon, it could result in 2 million immigrants appearing at our border.
He said it would probably take six months to prepare for implementing new border security measures.
But he made most of the changes the day he took the oath of office.
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.