Today is one hell of a hump day already: New government figures show that the Biden administration is getting it wrong on the border, getting it wrong on the economy and job creation, and getting it wrong on inflation.
No, Mr. President, This Is Not the Usual Seasonal Migration
I told you, back on April 19, that this month’s immigration numbers were going to be high, and represent a blinking red light. On May 4, I reminded Jen Rubin that no, nothing “happened” to the border crisis, the media just stopped discussing it. On Monday, I pointed out that the federal government’s official statistics were undermining Biden’s argument that what Americans were seeing on the border was just a routine seasonal pattern.
“The truth of the matter is, nothing has changed,” President Biden insisted in his press conference on March 25. “It happens every single, solitary year: There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. That happens every year.”
I’m sorry, Mr. President, but that is a load of bull. It is not a regular seasonal pattern to break a two-decade-old record two months in a row. In the month of April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection caught 178,622 individuals attempting to cross the U.S.–Mexico border, one month after they had caught an eye-popping 173,348 individuals.
The Biden administration is going to try to take a victory lap over the fact that the number of unaccompanied minors dropped from 159 in March to 134 in April. (That’s what NBC News chose to spotlight in this headline.)
(Over at the Center for Immigration Studies, Andrew Arthur wondered why it took until May 11 to release the numbers for April. No doubt it takes time to check and collate all of the data, and as of now, there’s no indication of any deliberate delay from CBP. But any time that new information that makes the administration look bad takes a while to get released, some people will fairly wonder if someone in the chain of command was dragging his feet.)
On April 30, when asked about March’s numbers, Biden insisted in an interview with NBC News, “Look, it’s way down now. We’ve now gotten control.” But the April numbers are not way down; they’re up a bit over the previous month’s record. At the time of that interview, did Biden genuinely believe that CBP encounters at the border had dramatically declined? (The other day a commenter on our site had a good observation: Biden’s usual reflexive denial of making a mistake and his habitual fuzziness with the facts make it very tough to tell when he’s lying, when he’s misinformed, and when he’s having any memory issues.)
Biden told NBC News that he “inherited a Godawful mess” from Trump at the border, but in January, CBP had only 78,443 encounters at the southern border. The first big jump came in February when it rose to 101,120, and then it continued rising into March. Hey, what happened in late January?
These are cold, hard numbers which prove that Biden’s assessment of the situation in late March was completely wrong. Whether or not Biden wanted to tell Central America that the border is open, his first moves on immigration — halting construction of border fencing, new guidelines to ICE agents to sharply curb arrests and deportations, an attempted moratorium on deportations, proposing a path to citizenship — all sent a signal to migrants and human traffickers that the door was wide open and everyone was welcome.
Recall this anecdote at the border, reported in the New York Times in mid March:
Jenny Contreras, a 19-year-old Guatemalan mother of a 3-year-old girl, collapsed in a seat as Mr. Valenzuela handed out hand sanitizer.
“I did not make it,” she sobbed into the phone as she spoke with her husband, a butcher in Chicago.
“Biden promised us!” wailed another woman.
Many of the migrants said they had spent their life savings and gone into debt to pay coyotes — human smugglers — who had falsely promised them that the border was open after President Biden’s election. [Emphasis added]
There is only one way that people in the poorest and most isolated communities in Central America will disbelieve the false promises of human smugglers and coyotes and understand that the border is not open. It requires the U.S. president to send a clear signal, loudly, frequently, and publicly, that U.S. immigration laws are still enforced, and that those caught crossing the border illegally will be criminally charged and quickly deported. I suspect that deep down, Biden and many other Democrats think those actions are inherently mean and unjust. This is why half the Democratic presidential field supported a repeal of the criminal statute for entering the country without permission. Additionally, almost all Democrats believe illegal immigrants should be covered by a government-run health-care plan, and they’re iffy at best on the use of E-Verify.
Many Biden supporters will insist that a continuing wave of migrants wasn’t the intended consequence of his early actions on immigration, and many Biden foes will insist this was precisely the intended consequence of his early actions on immigration. But that argument is almost moot; the waves of migrants are coming — and still coming.
Usually, a Record Number of Job Openings Would Be Good News
Yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of job openings across the country had reached 8.1 million, the highest that the agency had ever recorded.
On Monday, President Biden said, “Families — families who are just trying to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head — they aren’t the problem. We need to stay focused on the real problems in front of us: beating this pandemic and creating jobs.”
But the BLS numbers show we’re already doing pretty darn well at creating jobs, or at least creating job openings. An economy in which there are a record number of job openings is not one that is sluggish, or struggling, or that desperately needs another round of stimulus spending. What it needs are the currently nonworking job applicants to walk through the door. Right now, in Massachusetts, the maximum weekly unemployment-benefit amount is $855 per week. In a 40-hour work week, that comes out to $21.37 per hour.
Meanwhile, Prices Keep Going Up . . .
The updated unfilled-jobs numbers released Tuesday morning were bad. The updated immigration numbers released Tuesday evening were bad. Guess how the updated inflation numbers released Wednesday morning look?
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.8 percent in April on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.6 percent in March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 4.2 percent before seasonal adjustment. This is the largest 12-month increase since a 4.9-percent increase for the period ending September 2008.
The index for used cars and trucks rose 10.0 percent in April. This was the largest 1-month increase since the series began in 1953, and it accounted for over a third of the seasonally adjusted all items increase. The food index increased in April, rising 0.4 percent as the indexes for food at home and food away from home both increased. The energy index decreased slightly, as a decline in the index for gasoline in April more than offset increases in the indexes for electricity and natural gas.
The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.9 percent in April, its largest monthly increase since April 1982. Nearly all major component indexes increased in April. Along with the index for used cars and trucks, the indexes for shelter, airline fares, recreation, motor vehicle insurance, and household furnishings and operations were among the indexes with a large impact on the overall increase.
The all-items index rose 4.2 percent for the 12 months ending April, a larger increase than the 2.6- percent increase for the period ending March.
In other news: Jennifer Granholm, during a press conference yesterday about the hack of the Colonial Pipeline, said, “We have doubled down on ensuring that there’s an ability to truck oil in — gas in. But it’s — the pipe is the best way to go. And so that’s why, hopefully, this company, Colonial, will, in fact, be able to restore operations by the end of the week as they have said.”
Oh, pipe is the best way to go, huh? Safer, more secure, more efficient, less risk of accidents? Then maybe this administration shouldn’t be canceling pipeline projects!
U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended or turned away more than 178,600 people at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, marking what continues to be a growing border crisis.
The last time monthly border apprehensions exceeded this total was in April 2001, the all-time record year for illegal immigration with more than 1.6 million arrests. Unlike now, Border Patrol custody numbers back then were trending downward from March 2001, with more than 220,000 arrests.
Of those illegal aliens taken into custody in April this year, more than 111,000 were single adults not seeking asylum and who were subject to expulsion under Title 42. More single adults have been apprehended so far this year than the total number of families that were apprehended in all of 2019 during the last border crisis.
The Biden administration repeatedly denies there’s a border crisis and often blames the influx on former President Donald Trump and normal seasonal surges, but in April last year, border officials caught just over 17,000 illegal aliens at the southern border, the same number of unaccompanied minors who crossed last month.
“Until this administration applies a consequence for coming here illegally, these numbers are going to remain at crisis levels,” former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a statement. “Make no mistake: this is not just a humanitarian crisis on our border — it is a security crisis that is giving drug cartels and human smugglers a historic opportunity to expand their operations in the Western Hemisphere.”
While the average amount of time migrant children spent in custody fell from 115 hours in March to 28 hours in April, drug seizures keep climbing. Overall, Customs and Border Protection saw a 6 percent increase from March to April. Of those drugs being smuggled across the border by cartels, seizures of heroin increased 97 percent and seizures of fentanyl increased 34 percent, already passing the total numbers from the 2020 fiscal year. As noted by The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson, the effects of these drugs extend far beyond the border crisis.
Experts estimate the volume of drugs confiscated at the border generally represents maybe 10 or 15 percent of total production. That amount of fentanyl — thousands of pounds — coming over the border has deadly consequences once it reaches U.S. cities and towns. Last year, a record number of Americans (some 90,000, possibly more) died of drug overdose. The increase in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020, researchers say, was driven by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fatal fentanyl overdoses spiked during the pandemic last spring, claiming more than 6,000 lives in May 2020 alone, and as the year went on they never dropped back down to pre-pandemic levels.
The one issue where the White House plays defense
The pickings are slim for Republicans in Joe Biden’s Washington. For the past few months, the president has maintained a job approval rating in the mid- to low-50s. He has a net positive rating in the double digits. He gets good marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, for his distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, and for his (misguided) decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The American Rescue Plan is extremely popular, and the American Jobs Plan polls well. The rules of the House and budget reconciliation in the Senate mean that Republicans are powerless to stop major economic legislation from becoming law. Meanwhile, the conservative grassroots are more interested in election integrity and identity politics than in policy. GOP officials are frustrated. “It’s always harder to fight against a nice person because usually people will sort of give him the benefit of the doubt,” Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) told The Hill recently.
There’s one issue, however, where the public has doubts. It’s the border. The surge in illegal immigration throughout his first 100 days in office has left Biden vulnerable to Republican criticisms and worried about the political implications. The crisis has exposed as false the idea that this administration is staffed with an “A-Team” of “hyper-competent” technocrats able to manage anything that comes their way. Leaks to the news media reveal an administration playing an internal blame game. The typically unflappable Jen Psaki has been caught up in spats with the White House press corps. The upshot is that Biden’s missteps have given the GOP an opportunity to unite around border security and tight labor markets.
The public doesn’t like the results of Biden’s asylum policies. Just 24 percent of adults in a late March AP-NORC pollapproved of Biden’s handling of the border surge. Last week’s Quinnipiac poll showed 29 percent approval. A Morning Consult survey conducted at the end of last month found that a majority of registered voters blamed Biden, not “seasonal migration,” for the spike in illegal entries. Participants in the Engagious/Schlesinger swing-voter focus group doubted that Biden’s emphasis on diplomacy and humanitarian aid would reduce the pressure on the border. “Swing voter support for Biden’s border policies is like sand falling through an hourglass,” Engagious president Rich Thau saidto Axios.
And Biden’s response isn’t helping. He put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of efforts to solve the problem, but Harris recognized the political peril involved and quickly made it clear that she would be engaged in diplomacy rather than emergency response. Harris will meet virtually with the president of Guatemala on April 26, two days after her in-person visit to New Hampshire. The southern border has yet to appear on her schedule.
With Harris burnishing her foreign policy credentials, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has been left to coordinate the administration’s efforts. One reason Republicans unanimously opposed Becerra’s confirmation was that he’s a lawmaker and activist in a job best suited for bureaucrats and wonks. They had a point. The press routinely depicts Biden as unhappy with Becerra and “frustrated” at his inability to house, care for, and resettle unaccompanied minors safely and swiftly. What did Biden expect? The moment demands a figure with the logistical brilliance of Dwight Eisenhower and the moral core of Albert Schweitzer. That description doesn’t exactly fit Becerra, who is best known for suing nuns.
Nor is the anti-Becerra leak campaign the only piece of evidence that the White House fears an immigration backlash. Last week, in the space of several hours, Biden flip-flopped on refugee admissions. First came the announcement that, contrary to his campaign pledge, Biden would not raise the cap on refugees. Democrats and progressives slammed the move as inhumane and illiberal. Then the White House, always keeping an eye on its left flank, said it would increase the number of refugees after all. Press secretary Jen Psaki blamed the confusion on “messaging.” She was right—the White House had two different messages in one afternoon. A week later Psaki was still trying to explain the discrepancy.
It turns out that Biden didn’t want to draw further attention to immigration by admitting more refugees during the border crisis. His political instincts may have been sound—but he wasn’t willing to test those instincts against criticism from his own side. The White House can’t even admit that what’s happening on the border is a crisis. When Biden toldreporters, “The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people, and we couldn’t do two things at once,” Psaki and other administration officials said he was referring to the “crisis” in Central America that is supposedly forcing migrants to seek a better future in the United States. Please.
Biden spoke the truth: There is a crisis on the border. What he can’t accept, however, is that his policies are responsible for it—and are making his political difficulties worse. And so he’s handed Republicans a powerful issue in an otherwise bleak environment. Now they have to use it.
President Joe Biden’s administration overlooked certain contenders in a contract bidding process to pay an organization run by a former Biden-Harris transition leader more than $87 million to place illegal migrant families 1,200 hotel beds in Arizona and Texas, according to the Washington Examiner.
While contracts from the federal government are usually bid on by various organizations, multiple sources, and data reported by the Examiner indicated that Family Endeavors, run by former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer and the senior official who evaluated Biden’s picks for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, outright won the contract without any competitors.
“Information obtained through the Federal Procurement Data System indicates that ICE never opened the contract to outside companies and organizations but went with an internal candidate who had significant insider connections,” the Examiner reported.
Family Endeavors had contracted with the federal government on smaller projects before, such as working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Acquisition Service. Most of these contracts, the Examiner noted, however, were less than $1.5 million apiece, making the new $87 million contract “more than double the money it took in last year.”
Despite the Family Endeavors’ lack of experience as an ICE contractor, the immigration agency wrote off the breach of federal contract law benefitting the nonprofit as an “unusual and compelling urgency” that provided “short term” solutions to the influx of migrants in HHS’s care.
Lorenzen-Strait reportedly entered the contract just two months after he left the Biden campaign to join Family Endeavors as its senior director for migrant services and federal affairs. Before that, he worked under the now-director of ICE Tae Johnson to manage border detention facilities. According to the Examiner, Johnson “would have the final say on the $87 million contract.”
Biden’s actions speak louder than his mixed messages to migrants
On March 14, the day that Kevin McCarthy and 12 House Republicans went to Texas to visit the southern border, the El Paso Central Processing Center for migrants reached capacity. The Republicans heard heartbreaking stories of unaccompanied children, some less than six years old, crossing the border while holding hands. Border agents informed the congressmen that fentanyl traffickers are exploiting the surge in illegal immigration. One agent told John Katko, ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, that a few of the apprehended migrants appear on the terrorist watch list. Border and immigration personnel are stretched thin. “They’ve never seen anything like this,” McCarthy told me.
Indeed, Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas projects that the United States faces its largest surge in illegal immigration in two decades. He’s ordered FEMAto assist in taking care of the hundreds of unaccompanied minors who show up daily asking for asylum. Mayorkas and President Joe Biden insist that the previous administration is responsible for a crisis that emerged weeks after Donald Trump left the White House. They couldn’t be more wrong.
What’s happening on the southern border is the most preventable emergency in years. And Joe Biden created it. No matter how often he tells asylum seekers that now is not the time to enter the United States, migrants won’t listen. That’s because the policies he put into place incentivize the dangerous trek. At the same time, Biden has handed the Republicans an issue that will remain long after the $1,400 checks in the American Rescue Plan have been forgotten. And it hasn’t been 60 days since he took office.
Biden’s contradictory messaging won’t relieve the pressure on the border. Sure, he told George Stephanopoulos that his message to migrants is, “Don’t leave your town or city or community.” Mayorkas echoed this sentiment in an interview with CBS. But then he added, “If they do, we will not expel that young child.” That includes tens of thousands of teenagers who may be looking for jobs rather than fleeing persecution.
So the White House says stay put, but if you don’t and border patrol apprehends you, you’ll be housed, clothed, fed, and released if you are under 18. And by the way, we’re laying the groundwork for providing legal status and a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already here. That’s not a stop light to border crossers. It’s a yellow light: Proceed with caution.
What did Biden expect? True, he’s maintained a Trump-era rule that allows for the swift removal of adults because of the coronavirus. But he exempted minors from the regulation, creating a massive loophole. And he’s torn up just about everything else that Trump did.
Rich Lowry has documented the rapid undoing of Trump’s successes. The most significant changes were ending the Migrant Protection Protocols—the so-called Remain in Mexico plan that kept asylum-seekers in Mexico while their claims were reviewed—and canceling the “safe-third-country” agreements that required migrants to apply for asylum in the first nation they entered on their way to the United States.
Then there’s the attitudinal difference between the two presidents. Whatever else can be said about Trump, his position on illegal immigration was no mystery. Biden, of course, wants to repudiate every aspect of the Trump presidency, especially its approach to immigration. His demeanor and actions send a dramatic signal that America will be more welcoming.
Even if he says otherwise. Kevin McCarthy, for example, recounted his time at an incomplete section of the border wall. Construction workers had only 17 miles left to finish—but were told to put down their tools as of midnight on January 20. Meanwhile the fence around the U.S. Capitol, complete with razor-wire, still stands. Biden’s position on the two walls delivers a message to both migrants and citizens. But it’s not a consistent message. Nor is it a republican one.
The border calamity is the starkest contrast of the transition from Trump to Biden. It’s also a weak spot for an otherwise popular president. A recent Ipsos poll has immigration tied with health care as the third most important issue in the country. The Engagious/Schlesinger focus group of Trump-Biden swing voters expressed reservations about the current approach to the border. And last week’s CBS News poll showed that Biden is vulnerable: Just 52 percent approved of his handling of immigration, versus 67 percent support on the coronavirus, 69 percent on the vaccine, and 60 percent on the economy.
McCarthy downplays the partisan angle. But there’s no denying Republicans sense a political opportunity. House Republicans went on the offensive when Mayorkas testified before Congress Wednesday. Next week, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn will head to the border. Biden was helped by the absence of immigration from last year’s campaign. It allowed him to focus on the pandemic, the economy, and Trump’s personality. But now, on this subject at least, his luck has run out. And he has only himself to blame.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration issued a “Fact Sheet” on his proposed US Citizenship Act, a comprehensive plan to expand pathways to citizenship and otherwise modernize and liberalize this nation’s immigration system. It is very difficult to draw categorical conclusions about the many facets of immigration law. The passion on both sides of this issue suggests that finding a sensible middle position may be impossible. Even so, a measured and compromising approach is the best way forward on immigration reform, with its complex highways and byways.
One way to think about immigration reform is to compare the case for free and open immigration with the parallel case for free trade. Fierce opposition to free trade in part propelled Donald Trump to his 2016 presidential victory. Free trade did not take a central role in the 2020 election, in large part because candidate Biden offered a similar sentiment to bolster trade union support. This was not merely campaign talk. President Biden recently issued a protective “Buy American” statement, the objective of which is “to support manufacturers, businesses, and workers to ensure that our future is made in all of America by all of America’s workers.” A Biden executive order from January seeks to “use terms and conditions of federal financial assistance awards and federal procurements to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in, and services offered in, the United States.”
But the effort to turn the United States inward on matters of economic activity will force superior foreign products to be substituted with inferior domestic ones, making domestic production less efficient. These inefficiencies will have far-reaching consequences: raising prices and lowering wages across the board, weakening American exports, and inducing other nations to take retaliatory measures, which will further contract world trade. Hopefully, the world economy can avoid a repeat of the implosion of international trade that followed the passage of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff. But the political risk still remains.
Face the Challenges
The issue of free immigration is vastly more complex than the problem of free trade. As a general matter, no one thinks that the United States and other nations lack the power to exclude foreign individuals from entering and residing in their countries. But, as with free trade, there is a fierce debate over how that power to exclude should be exercised, leading to a series of difficult and hotly contended questions. Do we reunite families, when some members are abroad and others are in the United States? Do we allow entry into the United States for political refugees who have suffered under oppressive regimes? Do we reserve spots for individuals who bring special skills and talents to the United States? Do we make special allowances for “dreamers” who came illegally into the United States at a young age and have nowhere else to call home?
In all these cases, it is possible to offer a sympathetic justification for expanding the number of immigrants allowed to enter the United States. Indeed, American policy on immigration since the 1960s has become increasingly liberalized on exactly such grounds. Thus the percentage of foreign-born individuals in the United States has nearly tripled from about 4.8 percent in 1970 to 13.7 percent in 2018. The basic policy that lets individuals into the country is complemented by a back-end system of deportation of individuals who have entered under false pretenses, have given material support to terrorist actions in their own country, or who have committed serious crimes after their arrival to the United States.
Beyond the serious administrative difficulties of the current immigration system, it may be harder to support free immigration than free trade. Free trade is largely an economic story, with massive efficiency gains that can be spread broadly to offset much of the displacement it generates. Immigration, on the other hand, brings new persons into the United States, the presence of whom change the face of the nation. Claims of excessive criminal conduct by immigrant populations, especially those intemperately made by Trump during his successful run for the presidency in 2016, are surely mistaken. Nonetheless, immigration poses heavy challenges in the areas of education, health care, and housing. The political composition of cities and states can change with a rise in immigrant power.
Often, these issues are dealt with by sensible policies that help immigrants integrate into the economic system, learn English, and participate more fully in society. Indeed, as the immigration debate rises to a fever pitch, Ilya Somin of the Scalia Law School at George Mason University has written a powerful book, Free to Move. Somin, against the grain, urges the United States to adopt an open-border policy on immigration, noting the enormous gains for immigrants who reach our shores and the major contributions immigrant populations have made toward overall welfare in the United States.
Somin’s arguments help to strengthen the case for maintaining current levels of immigration and point towards some further liberalization of the system, starting with dreamers, who have already integrated themselves into American society. Nonetheless, I am uneasy about the more extreme position, which may be called open or free immigration. Even the mass immigration into the United States from 1890 to 1914 was not entirely free and required the resolution of hard policy problems.
For instance, immigrants had to be free of contagious diseases––and if these could not be eliminated during quarantine, shipping companies were obliged to return immigrants to their country of origin. That system, moreover, worked as well as it did in part because the private costs of immigration were sufficiently high. High costs operated as a sorting mechanism that tended to bring fitter and more self-reliant individuals to our shores. At the same time, the absorption of immigrants into society was made easier by the far smaller state and federal welfare operations of the time. This reduced the public costs of admitting new residents, and left the task of supporting and integrating newly arrived individuals to successful private organizations like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), founded in 1881.
Open immigration under current conditions would bring great uncertainty. Could the United States absorb several million Central American immigrants coming across the border through Mexico, especially if their arrival generated political unrest or brought risks of disease? Could an organized effort by third-party entrepreneurs to ferry thousands of impoverished individuals from Africa or Asia to our shores place burdens on this nation that it could not withstand? Would the same rules for deportation apply to such populations that are imposed today?
It is hard to deal with such issues by experimentation once an open immigration program is implemented, and easy to predict the massive backlash that would occur if post hoc restrictions were implemented legislatively. It seems better, then, to adopt safer policies that have a better chance of leading to a measured expansion of immigration populations while offering humanitarian aid to regions in or near crisis.
Truthful Distinctions Matter
Candidly confronting illegal immigration is a necessary component of these delicate midcourse corrections. Some sanctions have to be imposed on illegal aliens if a system of legal immigration is to be maintained. In this regard it is instructive to note the recent trend to undermine the distinction between legal and illegal immigration for the sake of generating a more tolerant attitude towards illegal aliens. Take, for instance, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996,passed during the Clinton administration, which deployed the term undocumented immigrants in place of illegal aliens. That verbal substitution creates the linguistic possibility that people could be both undocumented and legal, even though a legal illegal alien is an oxymoron.
More recently, both the Biden administration and liberal Supreme Court justices have preferred the term noncitizen, which covers a range of persons, including those who have never had or desired contact with the United States. The term leads to such linguistic oddities as permanent noncitizen. It is now commonly asserted that the term illegal alien is “disparaging,” “derogatory,” or “dehumanizing,” and that a change from “alien” to “noncitizen” offers a way “to recognize the humanity of non-Americans,” as urged by a long-time immigration law expert, Professor Kevin R. Johnson.
Unfortunately, these exaggerated claims undermine the very policies that could help expand legal immigration. Immigration policy requires many difficult judgments on the proper relationship between citizens and legal and illegal aliens. Truthful statements about illegal conduct should not be regarded as wholesale condemnation of any individual. Deliberate obfuscation will not move immigration reform forward for either the proponents or the opponents of expanded immigration. d
Lax immigration enforcement under Biden could bring about a new border crisis
New data from the Department of Homeland Security capture the changing face of illegal immigration, revealing dramatic shifts that will shape President-elect Joe Biden’s hopes for comprehensive immigration reform.
The report from the Office of Immigration Statistics captures a transition as the share of lone adults, particularly from Mexico, declined, replaced by children and adults traveling with them from the “northern triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. That change in turn has led to a dramatic decline in the number of individuals reported, as members of the latter group rely on more accommodative legal protections to remain in the country far longer than the former.
The report also shows that individuals who were not detained after apprehension are much more likely to still be in the country. That’s a sign, acting deputy homeland security director Ken Cuccinelli wrote, that “catch and release” policies do not work.
That such policies, including an expansion of the use of “alternatives to detention,” are top of the Biden immigration agenda augurs poorly for the incoming president. The challenges that changing migration patterns posed to the Obama and Trump administrations are unlikely to go away under Biden, teeing up yet another border crisis and ensuing political meltdown.
The report combines data from myriad sources to track the “lifecycle” of would-be entrants apprehended over the past five years at the southwestern border, providing information on the immigration status of some 3.5 million apprehensions. Its coverage bookends two major migrant crises: a surge of unaccompanied minors in 2014, and a much larger surge of both families and unaccompanied kids in late 2018 and early 2019.
These two crises are part of the changing face of migration. Whereas in the period of 2000 to 2004, 97 percent of all those apprehended were Mexicans—many of them lone adults seeking work—by 2019 that share had dropped to just 24 percent. By contrast, arrivals from the “northern triangle” countries rose from 44 percent of apprehensions in 2014 to 64 percent in 2019, amid the second crisis. Many of these individuals were children, often quite young, and adults traveling with them, claiming to be their family members.
Those demographic differences strongly determine what happens to an individual after he or she is apprehended. Single adults are quickly deported, with 78 percent of those apprehended over the preceding five years repatriated by Q2 2020. But family arrivals and children are not—just 32 percent of the latter, and only 11 percent of the former, had their cases resolved as of Q2 2020.
Such migration is likely to rise under Biden, who has promised to substantially reduce immigration enforcement and intends to pursue an amnesty, both of which could incentivize further arrivals. Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that apprehensions at the border rose year-on-year in the immediate lead-up to and aftermath of Biden’s election, which may indicate a rising tide of migrants eager to take advantage of a more lax immigration regime.
Those arrivals will enjoy the same preexisting immigration challenges that the Center for Immigration Studies’ Andrew Arthur identified as driving the low number of deportations for families and children. “Loopholes” in federal immigration law incentivize the bringing of children from noncontiguous countries and delay almost indefinitely their immigration court process.
In particular, abuse of the asylum system, and of provisions which require the release from detention of minors and their guardians, results in large populations who arrive, are released, and never show up for subsequent immigration processing. According to the report, just 1 percent of those detained had unexecuted removal orders, while 55 percent of those released were still listed as unresolved.
The reason for this dynamic is not that those who arrive at the southwestern border have reasonable claims to be asylees: Just 14 percent of initial applicants are eventually granted asylum. Similarly, among those cases resolved, roughly 13.6 percent were granted some relief, while the rest were summarily deported.
In other words, the report indicates a large and persistent challenge to the U.S. immigration system, with an ever-growing pool of illegal entrants and an ever-expanding backlog of immigration court cases jamming up the process of legal immigration and the limited resources of DHS.
That dynamic is likely to continue, and even expand, under the Biden DHS. Biden’s promised undoing of many of President Donald Trump’s tougher enforcement tools, including the “Remain in Mexico” policy and the limitation of “reasonable fear” asylum claims, could exacerbate the inflow of people driven by the “loopholes” Arthur and Cuccinelli identify. So too could the deployment of “alternatives to detention,” which Cuccinelli specifically singled out as problematic.
The Biden team, likely spooked by the surging apprehension numbers, has signaled that it will slow-roll the undoing of Trump’s immigration agenda. But it has not promised any of the “targeted legislative fixes” endorsed by Cuccinelli in his letter, leaving in place the adverse incentives. That could lead to another humanitarian crisis at the southwestern border—a ticking time bomb Biden’s team has evinced little interest in defusing.
Cartels in Mexico aren’t just fighting over drugs, they’re fighting over industries, and it might well trigger a new and much bigger migrant crisis on the U.S. border.
Two important and interrelated news stories largely passed under the radar Wednesday as the House impeachment hearings continued to dominate the headlines. Both stories concern the deteriorating state of affairs in Mexico and have huge implications for immigration, the southwest border, and U.S. national security. It’s a shame more Americans aren’t paying attention.
The first was a report from BuzzFeed that as of Wednesday the Trump administration began carrying out a controversial plan to deport asylum-seekers from El Salvador and Honduras—not to their home countries, but to Guatemala, which the administration has designated a “safe third country,” meaning that migrants from those countries must first apply for asylum in Guatemala before seeking asylum in the United States.
The move is part of the administration’s broader strategy to reduce the number of Central Americans seeking asylum at the southwest border, which last year saw a dramatic increase in illegal immigrationlargely driven by families and minors from the so-called Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The second story was a Los Angeles Times dispatch from the Mexican state of Michoacán, where rival cartels are waging war not over drug trafficking routes but over control of the multibillion-dollar avocado industry. More than a dozen criminal groups are fighting over the avocado trade in and around Uruapan, the capitol of Michoacán, “preying on wealthy orchard owners, the laborers who pick the fruit and the drivers who truck it north to the United States,” writes reporter Kate Linthicum. Organized crime in Mexico, she explains, is diversifying—it isn’t just about drugs anymore:
In parts of Guerrero state, cartels control access to gold mines and even the price of goods in supermarkets. In one city, Altamirano, the local Coca-Cola bottler closed its distribution center last year after more than a dozen groups tried to extort money from it. The Pepsi bottler left a few months later.
In Mexico City, bar owners in upscale neighborhoods must pay taxes to a local gang, while on the nation’s highways, cargo robberies have risen more than 75% since 2016.
Compared with drug trafficking, a complex venture that requires managing contacts across the hemisphere, these new criminal enterprises are more like local businesses. The bar to entry is far lower.
The report also notes that homicides are at an all-time high in Mexico, and that cartels have taken control of migrant smuggling in the state of Tamaulipas, which borders the Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, the busiest stretch of the border for illegal immigration.
All this comes on the heels of the massacre of an American family in Mexico, including three women and six children, earlier this month by cartel gunmen, as well as the defeat of a detachment of the Mexican National Guard by cartel forces in the city of Culiacan last month. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has no strategy to reduce cartel violence and no intention of fighting the cartels.
So what do these two news stories from Wednesday have to do with one another, and why would they have major implications for the United States? Simply put, what has happened in Central America is now happening in Mexico. The difference is, when asylum-seekers from Mexico start turning up on our border we won’t be able to deport them to a third country or easily turn them away. If you thought the border crisis was bad last year, wait until hundreds of thousands of families in Michoacán and Tamaulipas decide to flee the cartels and seek asylum in the United States.
To really appreciate the gravity of the situation in Mexico you have to understand some of the dynamics behind the border crisis, which has been driven by Central Americans fleeing societies that are in a state of collapse. Widespread extortion, kidnapping, and violence from gangs throughout the Northern Triangle, combined with grinding poverty and scarce economic opportunities, has prompted hundreds of thousands of Central American families to head north.
One of the reasons this mass exodus turned into a crisis is that unlike earlier waves of illegal immigration, these migrants weren’t single adults from Mexico who could be quickly deported under U.S. law. They were migrant families and minors seeking asylum from noncontiguous countries, which meant they had to go through an entirely different legal process that takes much longer.
The Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, faced a choice: either release large numbers of people who had crossed the border illegally or detain them in inadequate facilities that were never designed to hold children and families. The administration responded with a host of new policies, some of which have been struck down by the courts, designed to deter Central American asylum-seekers and reduce illegal border-crossings.
Designating Guatemala as a safe third country is one of those policies, despite the reality that Guatemala is by no means a “safe” country (like El Salvador and Honduras, it’s one of the most violent countries in the world). The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “remain in Mexico,” is another such policy, which forces asylum-seekers to await the outcome of their case in Mexico, often in dangerous border cities where they are vulnerable to exploitation by cartels and corrupt officials.
The upshot is that as Mexico descends into warlordism marked by widespread criminality and gang warfare, we should expect ordinary Mexicans to respond the way ordinary Central Americans have. Eventually, they’ll leave. Many of them, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will at some point head north and claim asylum. When they do, the border crisis that we’ve been dealing with for the past year will seem insignificant—a prelude to a much larger and intractable crisis, for which there will be no easy fix.
To listen to most Democrats, they’ve got President Trump on the run when it comes to immigration.
The “big beautiful” wall he promised to build along the border with Mexico hasn’t gone up, and House Democrats will no longer fund even the border-security projects they supported in the past. Federal courts have also been preventing Team Trump from pushing through its efforts to crack down on illegal immigrants, let alone to attempt to fix a broken asylum system gamed by economic migrants from Central America who don’t fit the traditional definition of refugees fleeing for their lives.
But anyone who believes sanctuary-movement backers and Dems seeking to decriminalize illegal immigration are beating the president needs a reality check.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled to permit the administration to go on refusing to accept applications for asylum from migrants who have passed through another country without being denied asylum there, while a case challenging this common-sense policy works its way through the courts.
That comes on the heels of the court’s decision in July to allow Trump to use money from the defense budget to build the border wall. It was yet another significant victory for the administration’s initiatives and a sign that the left’s judicial guerrilla war that had been stymieing the president is starting to crumble.
Expect liberal efforts to prevent Trump from overturning President Barack Obama’s executive orders that effectively granted amnesty to millions of illegals to meet the same fate.
Fact is, despite the beating Trump has continued to take from the media about government tactics aimed at stemming the surge of illegal immigrants over the southern border, his policies have started to show signs of success.
While no one expects Mexico to pay for Trump’s wall, it is doing something more important: using its resources to stop its people from crossing over into the United States illegally. It has, for example, reinforced security on its southern border and set up checkpoints on highways leading north, dispatching 21,600 police and troops across the nation in the effort.
So far in 2019, the US Border Patrol has arrested more than 400,000 migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for crossing the border illegally. But only 4,300 Mexicans were caught doing so.
It’s all strong evidence that, far from ignoring or rejecting Trump’s efforts to jawbone them into doing something to stop the flood of illegals, America’s most important southern neighbor is listening to him. Recall that Mexico stepped up actions to control the migrants in a bid to avoid tariffs Trump had threatened to impose.
The message has also gotten through to those seeking to come to the United States illegally. Mexican officials have said there has been a “significant decrease” in the number of Central Americans entering their country this year for the purpose of illegally immigrating to the United States.
It makes sense. The campaign by Obama and other Democrats to grant amnesty and a wide array of benefits to illegal immigrants fueled the surge across the border, with new migrants seeking the same lenient treatment. That led to the crisis in which federal resources were overwhelmed by the sheer number of asylum-seekers, prompting much grandstanding and crocodile tears from the left.
Trump’s critics have libelously denounced his attempts to enforce the law — and restore order at the border — as reminiscent of the Nazis and evidence of racism. Yet those efforts seem to be having the intended effect on those contemplating coming here without permission.
With the courts recognizing Trump’s right to use his power to protect the border and with Mexico now cooperating with the United States, perhaps there’s a chance to break the long deadlock over immigration in Washington.
Of course, everyone knows America’s immigration system is badly broken, but Democrats, who hope they will win control of both Congress and the White House next year, have prevented a compromise that would allow the so-called “Dreamers” to stay in the country in exchange for the building of a border wall. So a fix may have to wait until after the 2020 election.
But no matter who wins next year, Trump has shown that, his intemperate rhetoric on the issue not withstanding, strict enforcement policies combined with the help of both the Supreme Court and the Mexicans can provide a way forward to fix an illegal-immigration problem that has long seemed insoluble.
The latest arrest numbers don’t tell the whole story. As the crisis deepens, the U.S.-Mexico border is becoming increasingly volatile and dangerous.
The big border headline this week was that U.S. authorities arrested or turned away more than 144,000 people at the southwest border in May, including more than 100,000 family units and children, far exceeding previous monthly totals this year and putting us on pace for illegal immigration levels not seen in 13 years. The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended on average 4,200 people a day last month and now has more than 19,000 people in custody.
These numbers tell us the migrant crisis is deepening, despite efforts by the Trump administration and the Mexican government to contain it. But beyond the numbers is something yet more disturbing, a reality not often reflected in media coverage of the crisis: the border itself is spinning out of control.
For one thing, it has become an incredibly dangerous place for migrants. In just the past week, two migrants died shortly after being taken into U.S. custody: a 33-year-old Salvadoran man, who had a seizure within minutes of his arrest, and a 40-year-old Honduran woman, who collapsed less than a half-hour after crossing the border. Last Saturday, a transgender woman from El Salvador died four days after being released from U.S. custody. Two weeks ago, a Guatemalan teenager died at a Border Patrol station from what appears to be influenza.
Many others have died, or nearly so, trying to cross the border. Last month, an infant drowned in the Rio Grande when a raft carrying migrants capsized. On Thursday, a Guatemalan woman died in the Arizona desert after falling ill and being left behind by the group she was traveling with. On Wednesday, Border Patrol agents resuscitated a six-month-old boy after rescuing him and his mother from the river. A week ago, agents rescued a double amputee and a paraplegic after smugglers on the Mexican side threw them into the water.
As a result of migrant caravans originating in Central America, large groups continue to show up on the border. In the past eight months, Border Patrol has encountered more than 180 groups of 100 people or more, up from 13 last year and just two the year before that. The largest group, which crossed the border in downtown El Paso, was more than 1,000 people. More than 2,200 people were arrested in El Paso on Memorial Day, including a group of 430.
The borderlands have always been a hotbed of brazen criminality, but federal authorities say the volume of people now coming across illegally is sapping its ability to combat ongoing drug and human trafficking operations, which continue apace. Two weeks ago, U.S. authorities in Arizona tracked and seized an ultralight aircraftcarrying a half-million dollars’ worth of meth and fentanyl. Agents continue to find smuggling tunnels up and down the border. On Monday, a 23-year-old man, a U.S. citizen, was killed in a firefight at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California. Afterward, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found two Chinese nationals hidden in the man’s truck.
As the situation deteriorates, Mexico has suddenly sprung into action—mostly with what amounts to window dressing. In response to President Trump’s threat to impose punitive tariffs on Mexican imports if the government doesn’t do more to prevent illegal immigration, Mexico has ordered 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border with Guatemala, promising it will quickly reduce the numbers of Central Americans crossing that porous border (it won’t). Mexican authorities also arrested two organizers of a controversial activist group that’s been behind several large caravans, and on Wednesday apprehended a group of 1,000 migrants in southern Mexico who said they were headed to the United States to claim asylum.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan was in Guatemala last week working out a plan to assist in the tracking and interdiction of smuggling networks in that country. Dozens of DHS agents and investigators have been dispatched to Guatemala for this purpose, and according to one news report, Guatemala’s ambassador to the United States recently told a Democratic member of Congress that his country would welcome U.S. troops to help secure the northern border.
It’s hard to say where all this is leading. Mexican and American officials say they are nearing an agreement that would deport Guatemalan asylum-seekers who enter the United States to Mexico, and send Honduran and Salvadoran migrants to Guatemala, but it’s unclear if such a scheme would satisfy Trump, or survive a challenge in the courts.
What’s clear, for now, is that the crisis is entering a new and uncertain phase. As pressure mounts to do something about the sharp spike in illegal immigration, and Mexico puts pressure on criminal smuggling networks and cartels that are profiting off the crisis, we should expect more confrontation at the border and throughout Mexico, and, for those trying to get into the United States more danger and uncertainty.
By Noe Leiva • Yahoo
Honduran authorities have arrested five Syrians intending to make it to the United States with stolen Greek passports, triggering alarm Wednesday in the wake of the Paris attacks launched by Syria-linked jihadists.
The Syrians were arrested on Tuesday as they flew into Toncontin airport serving the Honduran capital and failed to make it past airport security checks, a police spokesman, Anibal Baca, told reporters.
“Five Syrian citizens have been detained and will be taken to our offices to be investigated because it is suspected they are carrying false documents, passports stolen in Greece,” Baca said. Continue reading
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed that eight Syrians were taken into custody at the Laredo port of entry.
by Brandon Darby & Ildefonso Ortiz • Breitbart
Two federal agents operating under the umbrella of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are claiming that eight Syrian illegal aliens attempted to enter Texas from Mexico in the Laredo Sector. The federal agents spoke with Breitbart Texas on the condition of anonymity, however, a local president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) confirmed that Laredo Border Patrol agents have been officially contacting the organization with concerns over reports from other federal agents about Syrians illegally entering the country in the Laredo Sector. The reports have caused a stir among the sector’s Border Patrol agents.
The sources claimed that eight Syrians were apprehended on Monday, November 16, 2015. According to the sources, the Syrians were in two separate “family units” and were apprehended at the Juarez Lincoln Bridge in Laredo, Texas, also known officially as Port of Entry 1.
Border Patrol agent and NBPC Local 2455 President Hector Garza told Breitbart Texas, “Border Patrol agents who we represent have been contacting our organization to voice concerns about reports from other agents that Syrians crossed the U.S. border from Mexico in the Laredo Sector. Our agents have heard about Syrians being apprehended in the area from other federal agents.” Agent Garza added, “At this time, I cannot confirm or deny that Syrians have crossed, for security reasons.”
Agent Garza further stated that in matters as sensitive as Syrians crossing the border from Mexico, it would be highly unlikely that federal agencies would publicize it or inform a broad group of law enforcement. He did say that Local 2455 is taking the reports seriously and that they “will be issuing an officer safety bulletin advising Border Patrol agents to exercise extra precautions as they patrol the border.”
Breitbart Texas can confirm that a Syrian did attempt to enter the U.S. illegally through Texas in late September. The Syrian was caught using a passport that belonged to someone else and U.S. authorities decided against prosecuting anyone involved due to “circumstances.”
Director of Texas Department of Public Safety says individuals have been captured from countries known to have a “terrorism presence”
by Adan Salazar • Info Wars
Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which supervises the Texas Highway Patrol and State Troopers, warned Sunday at an annual Texas Border Coalition meeting that vulnerabilities at the southern border may leave Americans open to a possible terrorist attack.
“[I]ndividuals that come across the Texas/Mexican border from countries with a known terrorism presence and the answer to that is yes,” McCraw stated over the weekend when asked if any suspected ISIS terrorists had yet infiltrated the border.
“We have individuals that we’ve needed to debrief in Pashto/Dari,” the director said, referring to two languages spoken in Afghanistan. “Not a lot of Pashto and Dari speakers around.” Continue reading
Many people in Washington seem to be talking about the prospect of the president unilaterally legalizing the status of several million people who entered the country illegally as though it were just another political question. But if reports about the nature of the executive action he is contemplating are right, it would be by far the most blatant and explosive provocation in the administration’s assault on the separation of powers, and could well be the most extreme act of executive overreach ever attempted by an American president in peacetime.
I am more open to some form of amnesty than most people around here, I suspect, though the form I could support (as part of a deal that included more serious border control and visa enforcement) would involve legalization short of full citizenship, for reasons well articulated by Peter Skerry here. But the question of how to address the complicated problem of the status of the more than 10 million people who are in our country without legal authorization is a matter for the political system as a whole to address. Continue reading
Nearly a year before President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis on the border, a team of experts arrived at the Fort Brown patrol station in Brownsville, Tex., and discovered a makeshift transportation depot for a deluge of foreign children.
Thirty Border Patrol agents were assigned in August 2013 to drive the children to off-site showers, wash their clothes and make them sandwiches. As soon as those children were placed in temporary shelters, more arrived. An average of 66 were apprehended each day on the border and more than 24,000 cycled through Texas patrol stations in 2013. In a 41-page report to the Department of Homeland Security, the team from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) raised alarms about the federal government’s capacity to manage a situation that was expected to grow worse. Continue reading