Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has repeatedly denied there was a border crisis, but on Saturday, he announced via press release that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be leading a “government-wide effort” to address what he termed a “challenge.” Mayorkas can linguistically dance around the issue, but even he conceded the facts are grim.
“We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years,” the secretary admitted in a March 16 statement. He added that “the number of encounters at the southwest border has been steadily increasing”” since April 2020, a very important that fact no one is disputing.
What is at dispute is the decisions the made during the presidential transition and in the first 55 days of the Biden administration. If President Biden ever decides to hold a full press conference, he should be asked why the administration did not pull back on reversing Trump administration enforcement measures when they recognized that migration trends were increasing and rapidly increasing after Biden’s election.
Secretary Mayorkas tried to downplay the crisis by saying in his statement that the mass migrant surge is “not new.” It is not, which begs the obvious question: why is the Biden administration only now reacting on any level. And why are they doing so with such an utter lack of seriousness – FEMA managing the situation for just 90 days? The spring and summer are peak migration periods, so what is Biden doing to prepare for an even bigger crisis?
When confronted on Monday by a reporter about migrant children being without food or time outdoors in detention centers beyond capacity, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki blamed “the last administration [that]left us a dismantled and unworkable system.”
More than 9,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) arrived at the U.S. border in February alone, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents encountered 100,441 migrants at the Southwest border in February. That represents a 28 percent increase over January 2021 and does not include the 72,113 expulsions of illegal aliens from the border pursuant to CDC guidance under Title 42 authority.
It was no secret that detention capacity was insufficient for any large surge, particularly since several of the centers used in the 2019 border crisis were shut down and now are being re-opened to meet a growing need. This has enraged radical members of Congress who condemned the re-openings.
While COVID-19 required detention centers to function at partial capacity, the inability to respond to a sudden influx of migrant children is due to demands by congressional Democrats to close detention centers dating back to the 2014 Obama-Biden migrant crisis.
In fact, when asked his plans to improve detention centers during the 2020 campaign, candidate Biden replied: “Close them down… By the way, we don’t need them.”
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifted social distancing and other COVID guidelines at facilities and the government is considering military bases, the Dallas Convention Center and other locations to handle the daily increase of children.
There is no doubt the situation will get worse if President Biden does not step up by re-implementing the Remain in Mexico policy, by requesting additional funding from Congress to ensure sufficient Border Patrol agents are on the border, and by stating loudly and clearly that illegal aliens are not welcome at the border.
“It is never safe to come to the United States through irregular channels, and this is particularly true during a pandemic,” Secretary Mayorkas said. While true, by telling desperate migrants to come later or sending a message that they can wait in the U.S. while their asylum cases are heard only increases the likelihood that that unsafe journey will be taken.
Biden, Mayorkas and Psaki all were members of the Obama administration when then-Vice President Biden introduced a similar plan to respond to a rush of Central American migrants to the border. The Obama administration’s Office of Management and Budget ended up asking Congress for more than $2.2 billion to deal with the migrant children, which was $1.4 billion over the original estimate. After the massive spending COVID-19 relief spending package, even that is too large a burden to place on the American taxpayers.
If the Biden administration thinks putting kids in homes rather than holding them in detention facilities is a solution, they are ignorant to reality.
“Many unaccompanied children have family members in the United States, large proportions of which may not be present legally. Such circumstances raise challenging policy questions that may pit what is in the ‘best interests of the child’ against what is permissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act and other relevant laws,” the Congressional Research Service (CRS) correctly argued in 2015.