The White House is scrambling to manage a growing humanitarian and political crisis at the US-Mexico border, created by President Biden’s haste to dismantle provisions put in place by Donald Trump that succeeded to reducing the volume of illegal immigration to a trickle. However, even before Biden’s November victory, the volume of illegal crossings began to climb again, as word spread throughout Central America that Biden would carry out his campaign promises to open the border.
Biden’s actions during his first days in office reinforced that message. His executive orders halted the construction of Trump’s border wall, prevented Border Patrol officers from ordering further deportations, and cancelled an agreement requiring migrants at the US border to wait in Mexico until a federal immigration ruled on their amnesty applications. The admission into the United States of large numbers of unaccompanied minors and families waiting in Mexico has encouraged many more migrants eagerly awaiting the opportunity to set out on the dangerous journey to the US border.
Most of the migrants trying to cross the border into the United States had fled from their homes in the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador due to the persistent scourge of gang violence and government corruption. Efforts by previous administrations to help those countries reestablish law and order and revive their economies were largely ineffective. As a result, many of the hundreds of thousands of poor people in those countries are now more eager than ever to risk the dangers of the journey north for a chance at a better life in America.
After Biden took office, the volume of illegal migrant crossings grew at an even more rapid pace, ignoring the increasingly urgent pleas from Biden and his administration officials to wait a bit longer before trying their luck at the border.
There were 18,945 family members and 9,297 unaccompanied children encountered by border patrol agents in February 2021, an increase of 168% and 63%, respectively, from the month before. The additional needs of the children has created an enormous logistical challenge for the government, because, under a federal court agreement, children held in custody require much higher standards of care and coordination across federal agencies than adult migrants do.
Border Patrol agents made nearly 100,000 arrests and detentions by the third week in March, and were on pace to be the highest one-month total since 2006. On March 10, the busiest day yet, agents took more than 6,200 migrants into custody.
MEDIA REVOLTS AGAINST THE BIDEN BORDER COVERUP
Clumsy attempts by Biden’s spokespeople and officials to minimize the extent of the problems at the border and blame them on the Trump policies that Biden has dismantled are now blowing up in their faces. By refusing to allow the press access to federal facilities at the border, the Biden administration has forfeited much of the goodwill enjoyed with the mainstream media. Major liberal media outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico and three of the major TV news networks are no longer cooperating in the coverup, and have begun to more aggressively cover the story of the developing humanitarian crisis at the border, as well as the confused and ineffective Biden administration response to it.
After spending weeks trying to dodge the issue, Biden finally told reporters on Sunday, March 21, that he did intend to visit the southern border “at some point,” but added that he was in no rush to do so because “I know what’s going in those facilities.” Biden also claimed that his immigration policy is still a work in progress.
“We’re in the process of doing it now, including making sure that we reestablish what existed before [Trump], which was they [migrants] can stay in place and make their case [for claiming asylum in the US] from their home country,” Biden said.
He also admitted that his administration needed to do a better job in transmitting his current messaging to potential migrants in Central America and discourage them from trying to make their way to the US border now.
But the 78-year-old president has apparently forgotten, and doesn’t now want to be reminded, that during the Democrat presidential candidate debate on September 12, 2019, he said: “All those people seeking asylum, they deserve to be heard. If you want to flee and you are fleeing oppression, you should come.” He had also said that when he was president, he would invite migrants seeking asylum to “immediately surge the border,” and that he believed that the United States “could afford to take, in a heartbeat, another two million people.”
TRUMP ACCUSES BIDEN OF TURNING TRIUMPH INTO DISASTER
In response to Biden’s remarks, former President Trump released a statement blasting the current administration’s policies. “We proudly handed the Biden Administration the most secure border in history. All they had to do was keep this smooth-running system on autopilot. Instead, in the span of a just few weeks, the Biden administration has turned a national triumph into a national disaster. They are in way over their heads and taking on water fast,” Trump’s statement said.
Trump’s statement also blasted the “pathetic, clueless performance” of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, declaring that “Even someone of Mayorkas’ limited abilities should understand that if you provide Catch-and-Release to the world’s illegal aliens then the whole world will come.”
“It’s clear they are engaged in a huge cover-up to hide just how bad things truly are,” Trump’s statement continued. “The only way to end the Biden border crisis is for them to admit their total failure and adopt the profoundly effective, proven Trump policies, [and] immediately complete the [border] wall, which can be done in a matter of weeks. They should never have stopped it. They are causing death and human tragedy.”
In a March 17 interview with Maria Bartiromo of Fox News, Trump recalled that he and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had built a working partnership based upon their shared interest in controlling illegal immigration and constructing an efficient US-Mexican border wall.
“[Lopez Obrador] is a great gentleman. We had a very good relationship. They had 28,000 soldiers on our border while we were building the wall … and they were also stopping them at their northern border by Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala,” Trump said.
“Today, they are coming in … from Yemen. They are coming in from the Middle East. They are coming in from everywhere,” Trump said. “They are dropping them off and they are pouring into our country. It is a disgrace. They are going to destroy our country if we don’t do something about it.
“Frankly, our country can’t handle [the increase in migrants]. It is a crisis like we have rarely had and certainly we have never had on the border. But it is going to get much worse,” Trump predicted.
BIDEN FAILED TO HEED THE WARNINGS
Biden was forewarned of the coming migrant surge by political friends and foes alike well before he entered the White House, yet his administration was still ill-prepared and lacked the capacity to deal with it. Its muddled messaging in response has made a bad situation even worse, by making appeals that seemed directed more at liberal activists than the migrants they need to dissuade from trying to enter the country right now.
Last week, the Democrat-dominated Congress passed two limited immigration reform bills intended to help the so-called Dreamers and migrant farm workers, which are likely to be killed in the Senate by Republican-led filibusters. But news coverage of their passage was overshadowed by media headlines driven by the stories of unaccompanied minors and families trying to cross border. Media attention to the growing border crisis also impeded White House efforts to reap the full political benefits from its recently passed $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill.
Incredibly, congressional Democrats are now trying to exploit the crisis that the Biden administration created at the border. Dick Durbin, the second highest ranking Senate Democrat behind Chuck Schumer, recently expressed confidence that the situation at the border would force Senate Republicans to vote for the two bills passed by the House. “[As] we go into this debate, whether it’s a crisis or a challenge at the border, let me tell you. . . we need to address our immigration laws in this country that are broken,” said Durbin. “What we see at the border is one exhibit of it, one exhibit of evidence in that. But there’s more across the board.”
BORDER DISTRICT DEMOCRATS FRUSTRATED AND FURIOUS
Some of the most biting criticism of the Biden administration response has come from Democrat members of Congress representing districts along the Mexican border which have been impacted by the surge of migrants. White House officials ignored their warnings of the likely consequences of Biden’s failure to make sure his administration would have the necessary facilities in place to deal with the predictable increase in border crossings before opening the migration floodgates.
“When you create a system that incentivizes people to come across, and they are released, that immediately sends a message to Central America that if you come across, you can stay,” said Texas Democrat Congressman Vicente Gonzalez. “It incentivizes droves of people to come, and the only way to slow it down is by changing policy at our doorstep. If they don’t change the policy, the flow of continued migration traffic isn’t going to stop or slow down.”
Gonzales was no fan of Trump’s approach to controlling the border. “There’s no question Donald Trump’s strategy was inhumane, brutal and un-American,” he told Politico, “but what we’re doing now is also a failure.”
Congressman Henry Cuellar said that he first called a White House contact to discuss the surge of migrants arriving on the border just a few days into Biden’s presidency.
“I said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know what’s going on. We need to get a handle on this before it gets out of hand,’” Cuellar recalled saying. “Even within a week, I was already calling the White House to say, ‘Hey guys, you’ve got to take a look at it.’”
But after the White House refused to heed his warnings, Cuellar, the son of migrant farmworkers, began to grow increasingly frustrated with administration officials for being uninterested in the advice of local officials like himself who had a close-up view of the problems.
His anger boiled over in early March when the White House quietly sent a delegation of officials led by Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, to visit South Texas tent sites badly overcrowded with teens and children, without giving a heads-up to him, Gonzales or Filemon Vela, all Democrat Congressmen representing Texas border districts.
“You would assume they would give us the courtesy,” Cuellar said. “I mean, they were in Laredo, about six or seven minutes from my house.”
Cuellar also said that Biden and other administration officials were sending “a terrible message” by telling migrants not to come “now,” which suggested that they could still come and expect to be freely allowed to enter the United States at a later date.
Local officials in towns near the Mexican border say they are not panicking yet because they have survived two previous migrant surges over the past seven years. The first was in 2014, during Barack Obama’s presidency and the second was in 2019, when Trump was in power. “The crisis is in Washington because it’s the third administration that can’t solve it,” said Jim Darling, mayor of McAllen, Texas, a small city 60 miles west of Brownsville. “The only thing that could stop families is legislation and actually doing the work to help Central America, and that’s not happening.”
Many of the voters in McAllen and the surrounding Hidalgo County are Latino, and traditionally vote for the Democrat candidate. Not surprisingly, Biden beat Trump in that county in the November election by 17 points, but South Texas was still one of the areas of the country where Trump saw his greatest improvement over his performance in 2016.
BIDEN’S TEAM STILL SENDING MIXED MESSAGES ON IMMIGRATION
The message the administration is sending to migrants today is still unclear. For example, DHS Secretary Mayorkas has been telling asylum seekers not to come “now” while other Biden administration officials have been saying that they should not come to the US border at all, and instead file for asylum at the nearest US embassy or consulate in the country where they are.
At least one Texas Democrat member of Congress is still trying to defend Biden’s border policies. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said the administration made the right call morally by exempting unaccompanied children from expulsion, calling it “a horrific thought.”
Escobar tried to use a common Democrat excuse — blaming the Biden administration’s migrant child crisis on a lack of communication between the outgoing Trump administration and Biden’s transition team. “Were they unprepared? Well, yeah, because there was no transition,” Escobar said. “The transition was an insurrection.”
Tyler Moran, a top Biden immigration adviser, has publicly argued that immigration surges at the Mexican border are cyclical, and the current one would probably have occurred regardless of who was president. “The administration has done everything it possibly could to be prepared,” Moran claimed. “We have to stop thinking there’s this tension between having a well-managed border and a humane immigration policy.”
The White House used the same political talking points in a recent private video conference call with Democrat strategists and prominent immigration activists to coordinate their messaging. White House communications director Kate Bedingfield argued that Republicans are trying to use the mess at the border to distract the attention of the public away from Biden’s successes in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and stimulating the economy. Call participants also reportedly talked about the need to push back against Republican demands that Biden be held accountable for the situation at the border by arguing that immigration trends are cyclical and that Trump’s policies had made it harder for Biden to maintain control over border.
Former President Trump was one of the first Republicans to expose the rapidly deteriorating situation at the border. In a statement he issued on March 5, Trump said, “Our border is now totally out of control thanks to the disastrous leadership of Joe Biden. Our great Border Patrol and ICE agents have been disrespected, demeaned, and mocked by the Biden Administration.
“A mass incursion into the country by people who should not be here is happening on an hourly basis, getting worse by the minute. Many have criminal records, and many others have and are spreading Covid. Interior enforcement has been shut down. Criminals that were once promptly removed by our [Trump] administration are now being released back onto the street to commit heinous and violent crimes. ICE officers are desperate to remove these convicted criminals, but Biden won’t let them,” Trump explained.
Trump labeled the border crisis a Biden-caused “spiraling tsunami,” and warned that many border communities were being “overwhelmed” by illegal immigrants who have been released into the country untested for the coronavirus, despite the stiff federal pandemic restrictions on American citizens who seek to travel and conduct commerce.
“The Biden administration must act immediately to end the border nightmare that they have unleashed onto our nation. Keep illegal immigration, crime, and the China virus out of our country!” Trump demanded in his statement’s closing remarks.
DID BIDEN MESS UP THE BORDER DELIBERATELY?
In an interview on Fox News, Trump’s former acting ICE Director Tom Homan agreed with commentator Mark Levin that the current president deliberately following a strategy which would provoke a surge of migrants at the US-Mexico border that would “overwhelm the system,” enabling Biden to “then blame the system and take control.”
“You’re correct,” Homan responded. “The Biden administration is still trying to blame President Trump for what’s going on the border right now. They’re ignoring the fact that . . . that he gave us the most secure border in my career, which is almost 35 years.
“I started in 1984 as a Border Patrol agent,” Homan explained. “I spent my entire career on border enforcement, immigration enforcement, and President Trump got it right. He had unprecedented success on that border. . . [Trump] understood that 90% of the Central Americans that come to our border to claim asylum never get relief from US courts. They simply don’t qualify.”
Homan recalled that during Barack Obama’s second term, when Biden was vice president and Mayorkas was deputy homeland security secretary, “we built detention facilities, thousands of them. We held people long enough to see a judge. We let ICE remove them and we took away the enticements. . .”
But now, Homan said, “Joe Biden has sold out this country to the progressive left to win an election. He’s a different person … Alejandro Mayorkas is a different person.”
As a result, Homan concluded, ICE has been decapitated by Biden’s executive orders. “They lost 90% of their authority. They’re not executing judges’ orders, and we keep throwing out more enticements [for migrants to come to our border]. This isn’t incompetence. This is by design. This is an open borders agenda that we all knew was coming.”
BORDER SECURITY PROFESSIONALS WARNED BIDEN’S TRANSITION TEAM
Career officials at US Customs and Border Protection say they also tried to warn the Biden transition team about the likelihood of a crisis at the border that could quickly overwhelm the new administration’s capacity to handle it. Senior CBP officials delivered Zoom briefings to top Biden transition people that included projections showing a steep increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors if Trump’s policies were suddenly reversed.
Chad Wolf, the acting DHS secretary at that time, did not participate in those meetings, but said he talked to transition officials about the risks they faced, and the department’s non-political career officials also briefed the Biden team to help them understand the legitimacy of the potential crisis.
“It’s one thing to hear it from political appointees, but career folks were telling them the same thing. They should have been better prepared,” Wolf said. “And I know they were briefed in detail by CBP.”
CBP professionals say that at the time, Biden’s transition team seemed to understand the risks, identifying a surge of unaccompanied minors and a dearth of available shelter space along the border — exacerbated by the pandemic — as among the most pressing problems facing the incoming administration.
Susan Rice and Jake Sullivan, two senior officials in Biden’s transition team, began to gently warn immigrants against trying to storm the American border last December in an interview with EFE, a Spanish wire service. Their message to migrants considering the journeying north to the US border was: Don’t come right now, but you will be welcomed soon.
The next day, Biden said his administration was eager to roll back Donald Trump’s immigration policies, but first needed to implement immigration “guardrails” to avoid winding up with “two million people on our border.”
BIDEN COULDN’T WAIT TO DESTROY BORDER SECURITY
Yet, on the day he was inaugurated, the new president began tearing down some of the guardrails himself. He issued five immigration executive orders and publicly promised to adopt an immigration policy far more welcoming than that of his predecessor. His administration also immediately began to allow unaccompanied minors into the country, reversing Trump administration policy.
Biden suspended border wall construction, affirmed protections for young immigrant “dreamers,” scrapped Trump’s ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, and ordered a 100-day moratorium on deportations by ICE. He also sent a broad immigration overhaul proposal to Congress, including an eight-year pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the country.
In the following days, Biden ordered a major increase in refugee admissions, and launched a task force to reunify families separated by Trump’s “zero tolerance” crackdown. When Biden ended the “Remain in Mexico” program Trump had used to send asylum seekers back across the border to wait outside US territory for their immigration cases to be decided, he allowed hundreds of families waiting in the squalid camps to immediately enter the United States, producing emotional pictures that were widely circulated in the Spanish-language news media, and conveyed a powerful message to millions of would-be migrants in Central America.
Two months later, the Biden administration is scrambling to control the biggest surge in 20 years, with the nation on pace for as many as two million migrants at the southern border this year, exactly the outcome Biden said in December that he wanted to avoid.
BIDEN STILL LOSING THE MIGRANT MESSAGING WAR
The administration is clearly losing its messaging war with cartel-supported smugglers, as well as relatives of the migrants already in the United States, who are persuading families in Central America that Biden’s more lenient border policies mean that making the journey now is worth the risk.
In an ABC News interview last week, Biden disputed the notion that asylum seekers were surging to the border because they had heard he was “a nice guy,” and reiterated his administration’s appeal that they stay home. “Yes, I can say quite clearly: Don’t come over,” he said. “Don’t leave your town or city or community.”
However, when Congressman Cuellar visited the newly re-opened detention facility for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, he asked some of the 16- and 17-year-olds there whether they had heard that Biden was asking them not to come to the border yet seeking admission. Cuellar said the teenagers then looked at each other and said no.
When the congressman pressed them on the point, asking whether their friends, neighbors and family were telling them that it is now time to come the United States, “They all raised their hands and said yes,” Cuellar recalled. “They said, ‘We see this on TV. We see images of people coming across. . . So we’re going to do the same thing.’ This,” the young migrants told him, “is our opportunity to do this.”
This is more proof that the Biden administration’s message that potential migrants should wait is not getting through to its audience. Instead, they continue to be drawn in huge numbers by word of mouth and images filtering back to Central America that the American border has been opened to them by the new president, and that they should take advantage of it while they can.
GROWING OUTRAGE OVER SUFFERING MIGRANT CHILDREN
On March 21, the White House dispatched DHS Secretary Mayorkas to four Sunday news shows in an effort to counter the impression that Biden administration incompetence has enabled the situation at the Mexican border to spiral out of control, with the main victims being the estimated 15,500 unaccompanied minors, many now being held in tent camps near the border.
According to federal court orders in place for many years, unaccompanied children and teenagers in CBP custody must be transferred to the much better-equipped facilities of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within three days. However, Biden administration officials have admitted that more than 500 minors were held in CBP custody since the president took office for more than 10 days.
The 72-hour rule originated in a federal consent agreement arising out of the 1997 Flores v. Reno case in a California federal district court that requires the government to release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay to their adult relatives while guaranteeing the children a certain quality of life while they are in custody. In addition, under the Flores agreement, the federal government cannot detain migrant kids, even in an HHS facility, for more than 20 days,
The migrant children in HHS custody are supposed to be released into the permanent custody of a sponsor, who is ideally a family member or friend, or a Hispanic community-based agency within the United States. There are now more than 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children in the care of HHS and 5,000 more in the care of CBP, which is nearly twice the previous record, according to the Washington Post. To make matters worse, more than 500 teens and younger children are arriving each day at the border without parents, nearly three times the rate that children now in HHS custody are being released into the care of sponsors.
Under a Trump-era public health order known as Title 42, the Biden administration had begun rapidly expelling border-crossers to Mexico. But in late January, Mexican authorities stopped taking back some of the families, which forced US border agents to accept parents with children under seven, further exacerbating the influx of minors crossing the border and needing extra care.
In a recent interview, Biden advisor Susan Rice tried to explain the thinking responsible for the administration’s decision to start accepting unaccompanied migrant children. “We made the choice that we don’t want to be an administration that, if we can help it, has to turn back kids,” Rice said. In a plea for sympathy from the media for the resulting public relations black eye, she added, “We’re basically having to build the plane [a new migrant handling procedure at the border] as we’re flying.”
To help reduce the number of families with small children being admitted into the country, the Biden administration recently reached a deal with the Mexican government under which it agreed to start taking back more Central American families expelled under Title 42 in exchange for the US government supplying Mexico with “excess doses” of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which has not yet been approved for use in the US by the FDA. In addition, Mexican authorities announced the closure of their country’s southern border to nonessential travel, to halt the northward flow of migrants fleeing their Central American home countries.
Biden officials have struggled to avoid the provocative “kids in cages” imagery with which Democrats used to demonize Trump’s immigration policies. They accused the Trump administration of implementing a deliberate family separation policy, even though it was using facilities built during the Obama administration and was following many of the migrant processing procedures Obama officials had inaugurated.
One of the innovations made by the Trump administration in the absorption process was “enhanced vetting,” to make sure that each unaccompanied child was being placed in the custody of a responsible party. The Biden administration has reversed that policy, in an effort to speed up the process of placing the children to keep up with the flow. But whether that will ultimately work out for the benefit of the children who are now being placed with sponsors who have not been rigorously vetted remains an open question.
A POLITICAL SUICIDE MISSION FOR BIDEN’S DHS SECRETARY
Despite the continued influx across the border of those minors, as well migrant families traveling with young children, DHS Secretary Mayorkas in his TV news interviews repeatedly asserted that, “our message has been straightforward. The border is closed. We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults. And we’ve made a decision that we will not expel young, vulnerable children.”
However, according to the statistics released by the CBP itself, the number of families caught trying to cross the border illegally being allowed to stay in the United States at least temporarily has been rising sharply since Biden took office. In February, more than 11,000 “family units” — or nearly 60 percent of the more than 19,000 families taken into custody — were allowed to remain in the US while awaiting their immigration court proceedings, up from 38 percent who were allowed to stay in January.
Mayorkas admitted that while the Biden administration was quick to carry out his campaign promise to undo Trump’s border policies, it didn’t have a plan in place on-the-ground to manage the surge of migrants when it announced the dramatic changes in federal migrant policies. But he insisted that the administration did have a plan and would quickly rectify the resulting problems. However, he refused to answer repeated questions about how long that would take, or how many undocumented migrants the administration expected to ultimately allow to cross the border and disappear into the interior of the United States.
“We have seen large numbers of migration in the past. We know how to address it. We have a plan. We are executing on our plan and we will succeed,” Mayorkas said. “So we are rebuilding the system as we address the needs of vulnerable children who arrived at our borders.” But, he added, “it takes time” and is “especially challenging and difficult now” because of the Trump administration’s policies, while admitting that border officers are “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”
The DHS secretary blamed the infection risk created by the pandemic for the refusal by Biden’s officials to permit reporters to visit CBP and HHS holding facilities, and denied that the administration had imposed a gag order on its officials if asked by reporters to comment on the situation at the border.
Republican Senator Rob Portman told CBS News that Mayorkas’s message would not be enough to deter the record numbers of immigrants from arriving at the border. “People are going to listen to actions and watch actions and not listen to words,” said Portman, who toured CBP border facilities last week. “I spoke to single individuals who are coming over at night, men who told me that they’d heard what President Biden said and they were coming anyway because they could make a lot more, 10 times more, in the United States.”
ONE MILLION MIGRANTS EXPECTED AT THE BORDER BY SUMMER
Texas Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, in an ABC News interview, predicted that there would be one million migrants trying to cross the southern border to get into the United States by summertime.
McCaul said he didn’t believe the claim by Mayorkas that the administration had worked out a new border plan before doing away with Trump’s successful policies. “I haven’t seen a plan. They have created a humanitarian crisis down here at this border that you have seen now. And the reason why they are coming is because he says words do matter, and they do. The messaging [of the Biden administration to migrants] is that if you want to come, you can stay.”
McCaul added, “The [human] traffickers are smart, cartels are smart. They know our laws, policies. The messages coming back [are] that, hey, we got a new president. Come on in. We’re open for business to the traffickers.”
CRIME INCREASING AT THE BORDER AS WELL
In response to criminals taking advantage of the relaxed enforcement conditions at the Mexican border, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott had ordered the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) to re-assigned 100 of its troopers to assist CBP officers in patrolling the border under Operation Lone Star. They are currently using boats, helicopters and land vehicles to carry out those border duties.
Governor Abbott said in a statement that, “The Biden Administration has created a crisis at our southern border through open border policies that give the green light to dangerous cartels and other criminal activity. Border security is the federal government’s responsibility, but the State of Texas will not allow the administration’s failures to endanger the lives of innocent Texans. Instead, Texas is stepping up to fill the gaps left open by the federal government to secure the border, apprehend dangerous criminals, and keep Texans safe.”
A spokesman for the Texas DPS said that it is concentrating its manpower at the areas of its border with Mexico which have seen the most criminal activity, including the smuggling of illegal drugs, firearms and convicted criminals into the country.
“Because Border Patrol is being overwhelmed, they’re busy with the family units coming across, so what happens is we have the criminal organizations from Mexico, the cartel, too, they see an opportunity to exploit that,” the DPS spokesman said. “They’re able to move these adults into the US. We’re able to fill these gaps and reduce the gaps,” to protect the people of Texas.
DPS reports an increase over the past several weeks of the number of adults with criminal records being mixed in with legitimate family groups, or posing as the parents of small children. Governor Abbott said that state police had already encountered 800 people with criminal records trying to cross the border since the beginning of this year.
In an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, Sheriff Mark Dannels of Cochise County, Arizona, said that Biden’s decision to pull the plug on Trump’s border wall before the section in his county was completed has resulted in more crime within his jurisdiction due to Sinaloa drug cartel. “They control all human smuggling in this county, they have control on drug smuggling in this county, and we see it. It’s a very violent situation,” Dannels said, adding that Biden’s decision to leave the wall unfinished has created a law enforcement “mess up here. It’s in disarray.”
Dannels concluded, “The bottom line, Mr. President. . . these reckless and hasty plans and executive orders only serve one purpose — to open up our country for public safety disasters.”
On Friday, March 19, Democrat Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut joined Mayorkas and three other lawmakers, including two Republicans, on a trip to the border. Leaving a processing facility in El Paso, Murphy tweeted that he was shaken by what he saw.
“Hundreds of kids packed into big open rooms,” Murphy wrote in a tweet. “In a corner, I fought back tears as a 13-year-old girl sobbed uncontrollably explaining through a translator how terrified she was, having been separated from her grandmother and without her parents. . .”
“The desperation these kids and families are fleeing is hard to describe. The memory of that 13-year-old girl will be with me forever,” Murphy added.
In a later NPR interview, Murphy said that it would be unfair to describe the situation he saw as “kids in so-called cages,” but he added that they are not facilities that anyone would “want your child in for more than 10 minutes.”
“You’re sleeping on thin mattresses on the floor. They are sort of bunched, you know, about six inches to a foot from each other.” Murphy added, describing the conditions he witnessed. “We’ve got to ultimately do better.”
Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, who also accompanied Mayorkas on his tour of the border, told the Washington Post that as many as 100 migrant children were being held in a large room at one CBP processing center in El Paso, Texas.
More than 200 border agents have been diverted to this CBP facility to care for the children, Capito said, and she confirmed that many of the unaccompanied children are being illegally held there far longer than the three days allowed before being transferred elsewhere.
Capito conceded that the centers themselves were well-stocked and physically in good condition, noting that snacks, water and hygienic facilities such as showers were readily available. Yet she felt that public health issues at the centers remain a serious concern.
HHS officials said that 35 out of the more than 200 children being housed at the CHS Trail House under a federal contract had tested positive for Covid and were quarantined. As of March 3, a total of 241 minors under HHS care had been diagnosed with Covid and had been placed into medical isolation.
“I’m very alarmed about the numbers and extremely concerned about the overstay in the facility,” said Senator Capito. “They’ll move 50 [children] out a night [and] have another 100 come in that night.”
Texas Governor Abbott said that at some of the federally operated migrant facilities, the drinking water was so unsafe he considered the situation to be a full-fledged humanitarian crisis.
To deal with the space shortage, HHS has notified Congress that it will activate the Target Lodge Pecos North in Texas, which used to be used as housing for oil field workers, as an influx facility that will initially handle 500 unaccompanied minors, with the potential to expand to a maximum capacity of 2,000. This is in addition to a newly converted Dallas convention center and another former camp for oil workers in Midland, Texas, which are already being used by HHS as emergency housing for unaccompanied teenagers.
Nevertheless, HHS officials conceded that they may have to continue housing some of the minors in their custody in the tent-like facilities now in use, such as the CBP facility in Donna, Texas, which, at the beginning of March, was filled to over 700 percent of its maximum pandemic capacity.
Migrant lawyers and advocate Neha Desai and Leecia Welch interviewed some of the children living in the Donna facility. They reported conditions so crowded that they had to take turns sleeping on the floor, went as long as seven days between showers, and were not permitted to call their family members on the phone.
TAXPAYERS PAYING FOR MIGRANT HOTEL STAYS
The Axios news website recently reported that the Biden administration has awarded an $86.9 million contract to a non-profit organization called Endeavors, which will rent hotel rooms near the Texas and Arizona borders with Mexico to house around 1,239 migrant family members over the next six months while awaiting the outcome of federal immigration court proceedings for their removal.
The San Antonio-based organization appears to have a respectable history. It was founded by five local churches in 1975 and has specialized in the rehabilitation and sheltering of about 800 homeless veterans, drug addicts and the homeless over the past 15 years. The federal contract marks Endeavors’ largest scale attempt to work with migrants since it began servicing that population in 2012, according to the agency’s CEO, John Allman. In addition to providing shelter, Allman says that Endeavor will provide the migrants with educational resources for children as well as victim services and mental health care, while assisting them in navigating the immigration process.
While the contract to provide temporary local housing on a large scale seems legitimate enough in light of the current crush of migrants at the border, there is no indication that it calls for provisions to screen out the criminals and other undesirables mixed in among the migrants who will be permitted to live in Texas and Arizona hotels at federal taxpayer expense.
Fox News reports that it has been told by a senior CBP source that its agents in charge of the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the border are considering releasing apprehended migrants into the United States without first giving them an official court date to appear for an asylum hearing, in an effort to cut down the amount of time the overwhelmed border agents will need to process each migrant.
The move means that the migrants who crossed the border illegally would be released on their own recognizance. They would be expected to return for their asylum hearing at an initially unspecified date, adding to the already substantial likelihood that they will never voluntarily show up for their day in court at all.
In another effort to deflect the growing chorus of criticism, the White House has pointed to Biden’s decision to order the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support efforts to process the growing number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border. FEMA helped in the conversion of the HHS emergency housing sites, but it is unclear how much else of the agency’s experience in dealing with consequences of natural disasters will be applicable to this politically-motivated, man-made catastrophe.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked the pointed question — if the administration still denies that situation the border has become a crisis, why did Biden have to order FEMA to step in? “So either this is the first time FEMA has been deployed just to admire a situation that is going smoothly, or the administration is not being straight with the American people,” McConnell concluded.
The unforced migrant policy errors by the Biden administration are a major political gift to Republican party leaders seeking to reverse the very narrow current Democrat working majorities in the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. Unless the Biden administration can quickly bring the situation at the border under control, the growing fiasco there could overshadow the president’s recent accomplishments, including passage of his Covid relief package and the rapid strides now being made by the nationwide vaccination campaign.
BIDEN’S SPOKESWOMAN ON THE ROPES
Meanwhile, at her daily White House news briefings, Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki has reduced the desperate conditions at the border to a word game with reporters. Day by day, she has been verbally dueling with members of the increasingly frustrated White House press corps over the use of the word “crisis” to describe the situation. At the same time, Psaki and other Biden officials keep deflecting demands by reporters for answers as to when the administration will begin to meet its legal responsibilities to the growing number of migrant children in its custody.
In her Thursday, March 18 White House, Psaki apparently made a slip of the tongue by explicitly referring to “the crisis on the border.” When a reported pressed later questioned her word choice, Psaki corrected herself, saying “challenges on the border,” and denied that her misstatement reflected any change in the administration’s understanding of the situation at the border.
She also denied a report by the Washington Examiner that DHS officials had “muzzled” CBP officials and top agents from discussing the situation at the border with members of the press.
In a memorable exchange with a member of the White House press corps during one of her daily briefings, Psaki repeatedly avoided giving a straight answer to a simple question: “Why are we still not seeing any images inside these [federal migrant holding] facilities?”
Her first non-answer was “The DHS oversees the Border Patrol facilities, and we want to work with them to ensure we can … [respect] the privacy and obviously the health protocols, required by Covid.”
When the same reporter again asked her about the lack of photographs, her second response was totally unrelated to his question: “Again, we remain committed to sharing with all of you data on the number of kids crossing the border, the steps we’re taking, the work we’re doing to open up facilities, our own bar we’re setting for ourselves, improving expediting the timeline and the treatment of these children. . .”
Psaki then felt compelled to add: “We remain committed to transparency. I don’t have an update for you on the timeline for access, but it’s certainly something we support.”
Her response, and the administration’s entire treatment of the situation at the border, hardly seemed consistent with the promise that President Biden made to the American people the day after his inauguration: “Our entire administration will always be honest and transparent with the good news and the bad. We’ll level with you when we make a mistake. We’ll straight up say what happened.”
The Biden administration blackout on media reports on conditions at government facilities at the border also came up in the recent round of interviews with Secretary Mayorkas. He claimed the administration was “working on providing access so that individuals will be able to see what the conditions in a Border Patrol station are like.” But his response was as difficult to accept as Jen Psaki’s non-answers to similar questions at the White House news briefings.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton told “Fox News Sunday” that “it’s rich that Secretary Mayorkas won’t let press travel with him to the border, but he will come on your Sunday morning show and peddle the same kind of nonsense that has created the Biden border crisis in the first place.”
The disconnect between Biden’s promise of transparency and the clumsy White House attempts to cover up the developing crisis at the border was undoubtedly the reason why an unidentified “senior administration official” tried to deflect blame away from the president by telling CNN that “[Biden] was disappointed that we hadn’t gotten answers from other agencies faster or that (the facilities) wouldn’t be ready for children faster. He made it pretty clear that there were times when he didn’t think we were moving fast enough.”
DESPERATE MEASURES FOR DESPERATE TIMES
Psaki was also asked for a reasonable explanation of unusual procedures used by officials at the border in the processing and deportation of the border crossers who are not being allowed to stay in the country. She explained that to relieve the processing burden on border stations where the volume of migrant crossings is highest, many of the detained migrants are being transported to distant border stations where they can be processed and then released back into Mexico more quickly.
Some families caught at the border in the Rio Grande Valley told reporters for the Dallas Morning News that they were flown to El Paso, Texas, after being held in custody just a few days. From there, they were escorted to the international bridge to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, around 800 miles away from where they were first picked up by CBP officers, leaving them stranded in a totally unfamiliar area of Mexico. Their account was verified by a Reuters photographer who saw planes landing in El Paso loaded with dozens of migrant families with young children, including babies in diapers, and then saw the families crossing the bridge.
Some of those passengers later told Reuters that they had been awakened in their holding cells at night by CBP agents, who loaded them onto the buses which took them to the airport, without telling them where they were going.
CBP officials make no apology for employing such tactics. They claim that the rising volume of migrants being apprehended at the border gives them no choice. Their goal, right now, CBP officials told Politico, is to either expel the migrants or release them into the US as quickly as possible, whatever that takes, to avoid any backups in the processing of the next batch of migrants arriving at the border. Since CBP facilities along the Rio Grande Valley are being overwhelmed by the influx of migrants seeking sanctuary, CBP is sending them to its facilities in El Paso and Laredo, because they still have enough excess capacity to process them quickly.
According to a Washington Post report, Homeland Security officials are considering flying migrants to states near the Canadian border for processing.
A COMPLEX MULTI-PART DISASTER
As RealClearPolitics commentator Charles Lipson points out, the current migrant crisis at the border is more complex than it seems at first glance. It also goes far deeper than the Biden administration’s deceitful public messaging, which the president has wisely delegated to his press secretary, Jen Psaki, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Their professional reputations for honesty and credibility have suffered a major hit as a result.
At the border itself, three separate disasters are playing out simultaneously, each one reinforcing the others. According to Lipson, “One is the humanitarian disaster on the border and in Mexico, where migrants pay criminal gangs to lead them north from Central America. En route, they are exploited, some horrendously: robbed, starved, left to die in the desert, or drowned trying to swim across the Rio Grande. The carnage is horrific.
“The second crisis is a breakdown of our own country’s rule of law, encouraged by the [Biden] administration’s fiat policies and its refusal to admit obvious failures.”
The Biden administration has given in on the principle of the rule of law to the progressives who dominate Democrat politics and who, Lipson notes, “consider the very term ‘illegal immigration’ so toxic they refuse to utter it [and] pour scorn on anyone who does.”
“The third crisis,” according to Lipson, “is a dust storm of deception and secrecy by the very politicians who produced this mess. Despite mounting evidence, they refuse to acknowledge the gravity of the problem. They deny all responsibility for creating it. And they prevent American citizens from seeing what is happening on border patrols and in detention facilities, some of which are now five to seven times over capacity.”
Biden and his fellow Democrats have long condemned Trump’s migrant policies as insensitive and inhumane for seeking to keeping all the asylum seekers from Central America outside the United States until their cases were adjudicated. But Lipson argues that the Trump policy was logical, given the statistics that federal immigration courts turn down about three-quarter of all applications for asylum, and about 90% of those filed by migrants from Central America.
The stay-in-Mexico policy also served as a useful warning to Central Americans not to risk their lives by making the dangerous trek north unless they had a strong legal basis for their asylum claim.
DEMOCRATS STUCK IN DENIAL
Biden and the Democrats deny that they have been insisting on pursuing an immigration reform package, which includes a path to citizenship, to boost their voter base with tens of millions of migrants who will express their thanks for that gift with their votes for Democrat candidates for decades to come.
They also deny that they have been pushing for open borders to create such a massive influx that any immigration reform legislation would have to follow the pattern established by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He agreed at the time to grant all the illegal immigrants in the country immediate amnesty in return for the Democrat promise to support increased border security, but that promise was never kept.
Biden’s missteps at the border were prompted in part by the false belief universally held by all Democrats in good standing today that everything Donald Trump did as president was morally wrong and a policy mistake, beginning with his demands for strengthened border security and a stop to illegal immigration. Progressives explained the fact that Trump’s positions on those issues were popular with many traditional working-class Democrats as well as Republican conservatives, by attributing it to their allegedly “systemic racism” against all “people of color” except for the color “white.”
The progressives dictating the policies of the Biden administration were so blinded by their compulsion to undo Trump’s progress toward achieving one of the original goals of his presidential candidacy that they ignored warnings their fellow Democrats from districts along the border as to the scale of the inevitable surge of migrants they would unleash.
It didn’t take long for those dire predictions to come true. When they did, the Biden administration simply couldn’t bring itself to admit that Trump had been right and they had been wrong about the importance of maintaining border security and enforcing current federal immigration laws, no matter how unpopular.
A WAKE-UP CALL FOR MODERATE BIDEN VOTERS
The sheer cynicism of the Biden effort to cover up the fiasco at the border has served as a wake-up call for many who voted for him in November out of a naive belief in his promises to always tell them the truth, and their mistaken impression that his “moderate” presidential policies would turn out to be harmless.
Biden’s refusal to admit publicly that Trump and his administration deserve credit for launching Operation Warp Speed, which developed and mass produced three highly effective Covid vaccines in a record amount of time, makes Biden look petty. But Biden’s refusal to change his irresponsible border policies is likely to result in many more migrant lives being needlessly lost and continued bitter partisan division within American society over the highly inflammatory immigration issue.
The Washington Post and the Associated Press contributed to this story