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
Joe Biden largely campaigned on restoring the status quo ante in Washington, so naturally one of his first proposals is for the sort of “comprehensive immigration reform” that was a staple of the pre-Trump years.
George W. Bush pushed a “comprehensive” bill and failed. So did Barack Obama. Biden picks up where they left off, except with a proposal — and this will be a theme — that is further to the left than the prior bills.
The key, if always dubious, promise in past legislation was to implement enforcement provisions before or alongside an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Biden’s plan doesn’t even bother pretending. It discusses upgrading technology at the border, the bare minimum of enforcement window-dressing, while proposing an amnesty for more than 10 million people.
Although the details are yet to be written into legislation, it’s hard to exaggerate how sweeping this proposal is. It would apply not just to illegal immigrants who have been here for years and become embedded in their communities, but to illegal immigrants who showed up the day before yesterday — the cutoff for the amnesty is January 1, 2021. Even this requirement may be waived for illegal immigrants who were deported on or after January 20, 2017 but resided in the United States three years prior to that.
Biden doesn’t want to give temporary legal status to illegal immigrants. He wants to give them green cards and then, after a period of years, make them eligible for citizenship. This would precipitate a wave of follow-on immigration. Green-card holders can petition for spouses and minor children to come to the United States, while citizens can petition for parents and siblings, as well.
It’s an unwritten rule that comprehensive immigration bills must always increase levels of legal immigration, too, and sure enough, the Biden proposal would loosen and lift various restrictions and caps in the legal system.
The proposal’s gesture toward stemming the flow of migrants from south of the border is to increase foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. We should do what we reasonably can to assist the development of these countries, but we shouldn’t pretend that this is any kind of short-term solution to migration. Even if these countries were to experience more economic growth right away, the immediate effect would likely be to increase migration as more people would have the resources to attempt to come north.
In a move worthy of an apparatchik at Oberlin College, Biden also wants to eliminate the term “alien” from the U.S. code on grounds that this longstanding, perfectly good term is offensive and exclusionary.
There is a good case for a carefully tailored amnesty for the illegal immigrants who have been here the longest, coupled with real enforcement measures like E-Verify and an exit-entry visa system. This is not even close to that.
At least the proposal furthers Biden’s goal of unity in one respect. It should unite Republicans and all supporters of a sound immigration system in determined opposition.
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.
According to Chief Justice Roberts, the Constitution makes it easy for presidents to violate the law, but reversing such violations difficult -- especially for their successors.
Suppose President Donald Trump decided to create a nationwide right to carry guns openly. He could declare that he would not enforce federal firearms laws, and that a new “Trump permit” would free any holder of state and local gun-control restrictions.
Even if Trump knew that his scheme lacked legal authority, he could get away with it for the length of his presidency. And, moreover, even if courts declared the permit illegal, his successor would have to keep enforcing the program for another year or two.
That incredible outcome is essentially what happened with the Supreme Court decision last week in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California (the latter being my employer, I might add). Regents blocked President Trump’s repeal of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which halted the deportation of aliens brought to the U.S. illegally as children, and a parallel 2014 program that suspended the removal of their parents (DAPA). Until the Trump administration goes through the laborious result of enacting a new regulation to undo DACA and DAPA, approximately 6 million aliens can remain in the U.S. in defiance of federal immigration statutes.
While supporters of broader, more humane immigration policies (among whom I count myself) may have welcomed the result, they may well regret the Court’s disruption of executive power. President Barack Obama could issue his extralegal visa programs for children and their parents aliens by simple executive fiat, according to Chief Justice John Roberts and four liberal Justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan), but President Trump had to pretend the order was legal and use the slow Administrative Procedure Act to reverse them. “Even if it is illegal for DHS to extend work authorization and other benefits to DACA recipients,” Roberts found, DACA “could not be rescinded in full without any consideration whatsoever of a” non-deportation policy other than on the ground of its illegality.
According to Chief Justice Roberts, the Constitution makes it easy for presidents to violate the law, but reversing such violations difficult — especially for their successors.
Such a rule upends the text, structure, and history of the Constitution, which generally prevents the occupants of a branch of government (who are temporary, after all) from binding their successors. The Constitution, for example, contains no system for undoing a statute. When Congress wants to repeal a law, it must pass a new law through the same process of bicameralism (House and Senate approval) and presentment (presidential signature). The Supreme Court effectively repeals past opinions simply by overruling the earlier case, though the Constitution does not expressly provide for such reversals. Brown v. Board of Education famously overruled Plessy v. Ferguson’s rule of separate-but-equal. When a president wants to repeal an executive order, all he need do is issue a new executive order. When agencies want to reverse a regulation, they must resort to the same sluggish method of notice-and-comment rulemaking.
If anything, constitutional law grants presidents the power to reverse the acts of their predecessors even faster. Although Article II of the Constitution requires cabinet officers to undergo both presidential nomination and Senate advice and consent, practices from the earliest years of the Republic as well as Supreme Court precedents recognize the executive right to fire them unilaterally. A president similarly can terminate treaties, as Trump recently did with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement with Russia, even though treaties must also receive Senate approval.
Recognizing a plenary power to reverse previous presidential acts, contrary to the Supreme Court’s DACA rule, comports best with the purposes behind the creation of the executive branch. The Framers created an independent executive branch that could act unilaterally and with dispatch because the president’s swift action was desirable in the execution of his constitutional and statutory responsibilities. They wanted each president to be fully accountable to the electorate for his actions without any diffusion of responsibility. The same reasons that support unitary executive action in the first instance support its potential unilateral reversal. A president may need to reverse his predecessor’s decisions quickly to protect national security or take advantage of a great opportunity.
The Framers’ careful protection against arbitrary government would be turned on its head if one president could insulate his unilateral policies against reversal by a subsequent president — for then the constitutional difficulty of enacting a statutory override would further entrench a tyrannical executive policy against electoral or statutory change.
It is important to understand that this principle applies even more strongly in the case of illegal presidential action. The Constitution vests in the president the responsibility to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully Executed.” The highest form of the law of the land is the Constitution. Under this duty, the president cannot enforce an executive order that violates the Constitution — here, the vesting of the power over immigration in Congress. Upon taking office, for example, President Thomas Jefferson immediately ended all prosecutions under the 1798 Sedition Act, which had made criticism of the government a crime, and pardoned those convicted under it.
This allocation of the power to execute the Constitution to the president reveals the perversity of Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion in Regents. It forces President Trump to enforce an executive program that he believes violates the Constitution and federal immigration law, and hence it forces President Trump to violate the Constitution. This is doubly perverse because Trump supports a legislative solution that would allow DACA and DAPA beneficiaries to remain in the country. Nevertheless, Trump reversed DACA and DAPA because President Obama had no constitutional authority to impose the two policies.
The Obama administration claimed that it could still establish DACA and DAPA as a matter of prosecutorial discretion. The constitutional obligation that presidents enforce the law also includes their right, due to limited resources and time, to set enforcement priorities. Prosecutors cannot bring cases for every violation of every federal law at all times. But Obama’s claim flew in the face of the Constitution by claiming that he could bring the enforcement of a federal law — here the removal provision of the immigration laws — completely down to zero.31
If that were true, President Trump could simply restore the preexisting enforcement levels as a matter of his own exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Each new president’s right to reverse the exercises of executive power by his predecessors means that no level of enforcement can bind any future administrations. If Obama were indeed free to set immigration removal levels to 50 percent of past cases, or even zero, Trump had the constitutional right to restore removals to those that prevailed under the Bush administration.
Trump’s rationale was correct: President Obama had no constitutional authority to refuse to enforce the immigration laws against whole classes of aliens, amounting to 50 percent of the possible removal cases. As the Court in Regents concedes, he had intruded on Congress’s constitutional prerogative to set immigration levels and to establish visa categories. As the lower courts had found, President Obama failed to live up to his constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. In such a situation, the Constitution compelled Trump to restore immigration enforcement to pre-DACA and pre-DAPA levels. By ignoring these aspects of the Constitution and presidential power, the Regents Court may have inflicted a harm on the nation that goes far beyond immigration law.
Watchdog launches probe after state officials admit adding 574 noncitizens to voter rolls
A watchdog group has requested records from the Illinois State Board of Elections after 574 noncitizens were added to its voter rolls, allowing some of them to vote illegally in the 2018 midterm elections.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, an election integrity law firm, made the request on Thursday after the board admitted the error. The individuals in question were improperly invited onto the rolls through a glitch in the state’s automatic voter registration system while applying for a driver’s license or state identification.
The watchdog says Democratic politicians are pushing automatic voter registration at the expense of election integrity. The issues in Illinois with automatic voter registration, which has been implemented in 18 states and the District of Columbia, contribute to an already widespread trend of noncitizens making their way onto voter rolls nationwide.
“States have no business experimenting with automatic voter registration until they can zero out the risk of ineligible noncitizens passing through traditional Motor Voter,” said Logan Churchwell, communications director at PILF.
PILF is attempting to find out if all of the self-reported noncitizens were registered through DMV transactions and if the state is undertaking any efforts to identify remaining registered noncitizens. The 574 noncitizens were self-identified and more could potentially remain on the voter rolls. The state found 19 who cast ballots in 2018, but the total number of illegal votes remains unknown. The group is also seeking information on whether any noncitizens self-reported prior to the new cases or if any noncitizens voted in elections that could have been decided by their participation.
“This is not a new problem for Illinois. That state’s Motor Voter system made national news in 2017 well before policymakers foolishly installed automatic voter registration,” Churchwell said. “States like Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, California, Georgia, Florida, and more have demonstrated how foreign nationals can and do enter voter registries through the Motor Voter process, regardless of automation.”
PILF previously uncovered 232 cases of noncitizens who registered to vote in Chicago. The individuals later self-reported their illegal registrations in hopes of becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.
“The Foundation fully expects there are more foreign nationals still registered to vote in Illinois—and some of them voted in 2018,” Churchwell said. “We just don’t know who they are yet since they haven’t felt the need to self-report—but their time will come.”
Illinois’s State Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Taxpayers could have to shell out nearly $23 billion a year to provide Obamacare coverage to illegal immigrants, according to a new analysis being released Thursday that puts a high price tag on one of the Democratic presidential candidates’ top election promises.
Nearly 5 million illegal immigrants have incomes that would qualify them for Obamacare’s subsidies that help pay lower-income Americans’ premiums, and they would average about $4,600 a year, the Center for Immigration Studies calculates.
If all of them signed up, that would total $22.6 billion a year. Even assuming a more realistic enrollment rate of about half, it would cost taxpayers $10.4 billion a year, according to the organization, which advocates for less immigration overall.
Under an alternative plan, in which the lowest-income illegal immigrants are put on Medicaid while others receive Obamacare subsidies, the costs would be similar, the study found.
“Any serious debate on providing health care coverage to those in the country illegally requires a cost estimate,” said Steven Camarota, research director at the organization, who said his findings were a reminder that “tolerating illegal immigration creates a significant burden for taxpayers.”
The group released another report Thursday calculating that immigrants who use Medicaid — legal and illegal — already cost more per family than native-born Americans. The reason, the analysis says, is that they are more likely to be less-educated and have larger families.
It’s become a must-have position for Democratic presidential candidates that illegal immigrants deserve access to government-sponsored health care. At one of the debates, all 10 candidates on stage raised hands when asked if they backed the idea.
But the candidates have different ideas about how to get there.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, father of “Medicare for All,” says he would cover illegal immigrants through his fully government-run system.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden at the debate agreed that illegal immigrants should get coverage — “It’s the humane thing to do,” he said — but later slimmed down that commitment, saying they should be allowed to buy into Obamacare and should be able to get emergency coverage. That latter part is already the law.
Mr. Camarota warned that if illegal immigrants are covered, the next steps could be to offer taxpayer-sponsored health care to guest-workers in the U.S. on temporary visas.
“The high cost of providing healthcare to less-educated workers who earn modest wages is a reminder that tolerating illegal immigration or allowing such workers into the country legally is likely to create a significant burden for taxpayers,” he wrote.
He said he couldn’t calculate how much of an incentive health care could be in enticing people to enter the U.S. illegally.
President Trump is moving in the other direction.
In an executive order last week, he announced a new policy banning entry of immigrants deemed likely to become a drain on the U.S. health care system — chiefly those who show up at emergency rooms, where they can’t be denied care, and then leave the public with the bill.
Whether to extend Obamacare to illegal immigrants was an issue Congress grappled with in 2009 and 2010 as it was debating passage of the Affordable Care Act. The party’s leaders concluded such a step could poison the entire health care effort, since the public seemed opposed to the idea.
It’s not clear much has changed in public attitude.
A CNN poll over the summer found 59% of Americans opposed offering government-sponsored health care to “undocumented immigrants.”
In the absence of federal action, some Democrat-led states have taken steps.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in July to expand state health care assistance to low-income young adult illegal immigrants, granting them coverage under Medicaid. The state had already covered juvenile illegal immigrants and “Dreamers” who had status under the Obama-era DACA program, but the new law expands coverage to any illegal immigrant up to age 25.
The state estimated roughly 90,000 people will get coverage, at an additional cost of nearly $100 million a year.
Bill package includes federal rent control, welfare for illegal immigrants and ex-cons
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren endorsed a Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) policy proposal that includes taxpayer-funded welfare benefits for illegal immigrants.
Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, dubbed “A Just Society,” calls for nationwide rent control and bans the federal government from denying welfare benefits based on an individual’s immigration status and previous criminal convictions. Warren became the first Democratic presidential candidate to endorse the plan, calling it “just the type of bold, comprehensive thinking we’ll need” to make “big, structural change.”
Ocasio-Cortez is considered to be “one of the most important endorsements in America,” and Warren’s immediate support of her latest policy marks another attempt to win the freshman congressman’s nod of approval. Warren’s quick embrace of Ocasio-Cortez’s plan is the latest sign of the social media superstar’s policy impact on the Democratic presidential field.
Neither Ocasio-Cortez nor Warren returned requests for comment.
Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, consisting of six separate bills, calls for the expansion of welfare. Bills three and four make it illegal for the federal government to deny welfare benefits to ex-convicts and illegal immigrants. The legislation does not address how to pay for the rising cost of welfare, nor does it explain how it would accomplish its goals.
“It’s been really hard for me to find housing. I have the money to move places and stuff, but they deny me for my felony history. It’s not right,” a man with a face tattoo said in the legislative package’s announcement video.
Ocasio-Cortez’s second bill, titled “The Place to Prosper Act,” calls for federal rent control by imposing a 3 percent national cap on annual rent increases. Similar legislation has failed at the local level amid concerns that such policies increased housing prices while limiting supply. A recent study by the American Economic Association found that San Francisco rent control policy “drove up market rents in the long run, ultimately undermining the goals of the law.” The Council of Economic Advisers found that in 11 metropolitan areas with housing regulations, deregulation would reduce homelessness by an average of 31 percent. More than 80 percent of economists surveyed by the University of Chicago in 2012 found rent control to be bad policy.
Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal also includes an official poverty guideline that accounts for “new necessities,” such as internet access, while the fifth bill creates a “worker-friendly score” based on union membership and other factors that would be used to evaluate or award government contracts.
The last bill in Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal establishes health care, housing, and healthy food as government-provided rights.
All major Democratic presidential candidates quickly supported the Green New Deal, including Warren, Sanders, former vice president Joe Biden, and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
To date, only Warren has endorsed “A Just Society.”
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.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has been critical of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, previously expressed similar views, saying a barrier at the southern border was needed to stop “tons” of drugs from coming into the United States.
Speaking to a South Carolina rotary club in November 2006, then-Sen. Joe Biden (D., Del.) touted his support for the Secure Fence Act, a bill that authorized “700 miles of double-layered fence on the border through more than a billion dollars in appropriations,” CNN reported Friday. Biden made the comments in the run-up to his failed presidential bid in 2008.
“Folks, I voted for a fence, I voted, unlike most Democrats—and some of you won’t like it—I voted for 700 miles of fence,” Biden told the group. “But, let me tell you, we can build a fence 40 stories high—unless you change the dynamic in Mexico and—and you will not like this, and—punish American employers who knowingly violate the law when, in fact, they hire illegals. Unless you do those two things, all the rest is window dressing.”
“Now, I know I’m not supposed to say it that bluntly, but they’re the facts, they’re the facts,” Biden continued. “And so everything else we do is in between here. Everything else we do is at the margins. And the reason why I add that parenthetically, why I believe the fence is needed does not have anything to do with immigration as much as drugs.”
“And let me tell you something folks,” he added, “people are driving across that border with tons, tons, hear me, tons of everything from byproducts for methamphetamine to cocaine to heroin, and it’s all coming up through corrupt Mexico.”
Biden’s comments may prove to be an obstacle in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary, as he faces several progressive Democrats who have been vocal against a border wall and have supported sanctuary cities.
CNN noted that Biden’s previous comments are similar to Trump’s current positions on border security and sanctuary cities, and that he could face backlash from some of his fellow Democratic opponents. Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden, said the former vice president wants border security but to get there without “abandoning our values.”
“As then-Senator Biden said at the time, ‘we can build a fence 40 stories high,’ but it will not address the real issues here. Vice President Biden believes we have to stop trying to scare people and instead have an immigration discussion based on facts,” Bates said. “He believes that we can secure our borders without abandoning our values, and that we should do that by addressing the root causes of immigration abroad and working toward comprehensive immigration reform at home, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and smart border security. He also believes that the Trump administration’s approach to immigration, including its crackdown on sanctuary cities and especially its repugnant treatment of migrant children, is contrary to our values as a nation.”
Just as inflation can destroy a nation’s currency, so too inflation of another kind can destroy a nation’s citizenry.
I’m talking about the Democrat plot to vastly expand the voter base by first importing illegal aliens and then making it as easy as possible for them to vote — sometimes up to and including giving them legal access to state and local elections.
This, coupled with the Democrat effort to diminish trust in our elections by constantly inventing ever-more ludicrous claims of voter suppression, has resulted in a deadly attack on our national sovereignty. If people no longer believe they can trust our elections, then they will feel justified in rejecting the legitimacy of the government itself.
Sound familiar? That’s the faux justification of the resistance in rejecting loyalty to the duly elected president. Remember, according to the Democratic left, President Trump is only in office as a result of foreign interference and voter suppression. Reality doesn’t matter. In the eyes of the far left, Stacey Abrams is the governor of Georgia even though she lost the election by 50,000 votes.
Now, Democrats rarely talk about allowing illegal immigrants to vote in elections, but that is not always the case. Following the Cass Sunstein strategy of effecting transformational change in society through small incremental “nudges,” some Democrats currently call for allowing illegal aliens to vote in school and other local elections on the theory that all residents have a stake in the operation of schools and city services. Sure they do, and all illegal immigrants also have a stake in federal immigration policy, which will eventually be the argument why they should be allowed to vote in federal elections as well.
Nor can we discount the possibility of non-eligible voters participating in federal elections as long as voter ID is not mandatory. Progressives typically label as “voter suppression” any policy that requires voters to present a legal ID before voting. The claim is that Democrat voters are less likely to be able to obtain such an ID, though there is never any realistic explanation of why that is the case. Nor can they explain why they think cashing a check at a grocery store should have a higher bar than exercising your sacred trust of participating as a sovereign voice in the government of the United States.
Since many illegal immigrants now have access to a driver’s license in “sanctuary states” such as California, it is difficult if not impossible to tell a legal citizen from an interloper. The only thing that prevents illegal immigrants from voting is an unwillingness to break the law, and they have already proven that they think the law doesn’t apply to them.
Mark Hemingway wrote exhaustively at RealClearInvestigations earlier this month that it’s not only illegal aliens who present a threat to the sanctity of our elections. According to his report, Los Angeles by itself has 1.6 million more people registered to vote than eligible voters. But it’s not just Los Angeles or California that present a risk. According to Hemingway:
“Eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have total voter registration tallies exceeding 100%, and in total, 38 states have counties where voter registration rates exceed 100%. Another state that stands out is Kentucky, where the voter registration rate in 48 of its 120 counties exceeded 100% last year. About 15% of America’s counties where there is reliable voter data – that is, over 400 counties out of 2,800 – have voter registration rates over 100%.”
If you think it is absurd that Democrats might want to take advantage of the large illegal immigration population to increase their vote totals, consider this: When passing their first piece of legislation in the Nancy Pelosi-led House of Representatives in 2019, Democrats rejected a GOP amendment stating that “allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.”
There’s that idea of inflation again, which brings us back to the question of the value of citizenship. This is no longer a merely academic exercise, as we learned in the first round of Democratic presidential debates. Many of the candidates confirmed they want to decriminalize illegal immigration and even offer government benefits to those who are in the country without permission. Moreover, we’ve been told by the Supreme Court that we can’t ask about citizenship on the census unless our “motive” is politically correct. This raises the question of whether citizenship even matters in the world that Marx built.
What, for instance, makes an American an American? If citizenship rights are fungible — if, for instance, you can exchange your Guatemalan citizenship for quasi U.S. citizenship merely by stepping across a border — then what obligations does government have to its own citizens? Don’t we at some point surrender our own rights to the claims of sovereignty if borders are not barriers but merely props for a social-justice docudrama? At least in the realm of rhetoric, citizenship should no longer be considered a once-and-for-all privilege. Easy come, easy go.
I wonder if that’s what President Trump had in mind when he made the supposedly outrageous comments about “the Squad” of four socialist Democrats who want to demolish our borders. He has been attacked for asking, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the four congresswomen were born in the United States, so Trump was technically wrong to say the “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen … originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe,” but under the new rules of fluid citizenship, he may have been even closer to the target than even he knew.
If citizenship no longer protects us, if we are obligated to shelter anyone who crosses our borders, then the value of that citizenship has been deflated just as the voter rolls have been inflated. Will the Squad really be “sent back” to some ancestral homeland? No, obviously not, but their advocacy of a country without borders makes them an apt target for those who want to defend our sovereignty.
President Trump, as usual, is ahead of the curve. He has pushed the open-borders argument to its natural conclusion. Citizenship and the responsibilities of citizenship either mean something specific or they don’t. Since Democrats in Congress refuse to acknowledge that U.S. citizenship has a real and permanent and impermeable meaning in law, then they need to live with the consequences of their globalist agenda. Sure, they are citizens of our great country, but if they are right in their defense of illegal immigrants, then that citizenship has no lasting value and offers no guarantees to those who possess it. In the brave new world without borders, the four congresswomen — and the rest of us — will have no certainty where we belong nor whether our citizenship rights can be taken away from us as easily as our protections.
The Wall Street Journal is the latest media outlet to report on what’s driving the border crisis. For most Guatemalans, it’s economic opportunity, not the reported violence and bloodshed.
A report this week in the Wall Street Journal chronicles the border crisis at one of its sources, a city in Guatemala that’s emptying out as families leave for the United States, and leaves little doubt that what’s motivating most of them to leave isn’t violence or persecution, but economic opportunity.
The focus of the story is the mountainous city of Joyabaj, “population 100,000 and falling.” The United States has deported 627 people to Joyabaj in the first six months of this year, more than any other municipality in the country except Guatemala City, population 2.5 million, which saw 643 deportees from the United States over the same period. According to one school official, about 2,000 out of 16,400 first- through ninth-graders in Joyabaj’s public schools have gone north over the past 18 months.
Indeed, Guatemalans now make up the largest nationality of those arrested along the southwest border, with 235,638 Guatemalans apprehended so far this year. Of these, the vast majority are family units or unaccompanied minors. As of June, more than 167,100 family units from Guatemala had been arrested, more than the previous three years combined.
What’s driving the exodus? Grinding poverty at home, the chance to get ahead in America, and a robust smuggling industry. On this last, the Journal report is eye-opening. Radio stations in Joyabaj advertise the services of smugglers with ads that ask, “Tired of so much poverty? Tired of so much humiliation?”
Business is good. One smuggler barrels along roads in a bright yellow Hummer. He doubles as a priest in the Maya religion and is paid handsomely to perform ceremonies to insure a safe journey.
Many Guatemalans use homes and plots of farmland as collateral for high-interest loans to pay smugglers.
A popular YouTube influencer has sophisticated equipment to create videos with such titles as ‘The American Dream,’ and ‘I left for the US looking for a better life.’ Together, they have notched almost three million views. Some of the inspirational videos are, in fact, advertisements for one of the area’s most successful human smugglers.
The Journal isn’t alone in its Guatemala reporting. News organizations that have actually bothered to send people to the country have reported at length on the economic benefits of migration, how Guatemalans who sent a family member to the United States live in large, comfortable houses while those who have not live in shacks with dirt floors.
In April, the New Yorker ran an article titled, “The Dream Homes of Guatemalan Migrants,” about American-style casas de remesa, or remittance houses, “which have become ubiquitous in the country’s western highlands as a way for immigrants to invest their earnings while living abroad.”
All of this reflects what Guatemalans say about why they’re leaving. A 2016 survey by the International Organization for Migration found that more than 90 percent emigrated to the United States for economic reasons. According to the report, “56.8 percent of Guatemalans migrate in search of better employment, 32.9 percent to improve their income, 1.2 percent to buy a home, and 0.1 percent to open businesses.” Only 0.3 percent say they migrate because of violence, and 0.2 percent cite gang problems.
Meanwhile, the entire political class in Washington DC is seemingly content to pretend that none of this is happening. Rather than confront the reality that the vast majority of those crossing the border are economic migrants, media elites tend to repeat, mantra-like, that migrants are fleeing violence and crime.
Few of them ever mentioned that although the Northern Triangle remains a relatively violent place, homicide rates in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have plummeted in recent years. In Honduras, the murder rate has dropped by more than half since 2012; In El Salvador, the rate has fallen for three years in a row; and in Guatemala it has decreased by half since 2009.
Others emphasize poverty in these countries, which is understandable because poverty is rampant in this part of the world. Less emphasized is the fact that the economies of Guatemala and Honduras have grown about 3.5 percent on average in recent years (El Salvador’s GDP growth has been a bit more sluggish, at about 3 percent).
So if violence is decreasing and the economy is growing, why are so many people leaving Guatemala? The answer varies depending on the region of the country, but the common theme is that people are leaving because they are poor and have far better prospects in the United States. Subsistence farmers in the western highlands are facing crop failures due to climate change, so they pack up and leave.
In cities like Joyabaj, cheap cell phones keep people in touch with relatives in the United States, and success stories spread quickly, inspiring others to follow. As one man told the Journal, “If you work in the U.S., you get paid $12 an hour for eight hours, that’s $96 a day. Here you make 40 quetzales [$5.30] a day when there is work. Not enough to live.”
What we’re witnessing is a mass exodus from Central America driven above all by poverty but made possible by a broken asylum and immigration system in the United States. The scale of this exodus is hard to convey. About 17 million people live in Guatemala. Since October of last year, 235,638 Guatemalans have been apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol. That means over the past nine months nearly 1.4 percent of the entire population of Guatemala has been apprehended and processed by U.S. authorities.
It’s time for policymakers and establishment elites to get serious about what’s happening and quit pretending that the vast majority of those now arriving at the southwest border are anything but economic migrants doing what any of us would do in their shoes: exploit a broken U.S. asylum system to forge a better life for ourselves and our children.
By Fox News•
Like most people who follow the news, I’ve seen the difficult stories of families crossing the southern border into the U.S. and how they are treated, no matter if they crossed legally seeking asylum or illegally. My heart breaks seeing little children with no shoes and threadbare clothes clinging to their parents.
What could I do to help? Turns out, quite a lot. Here’s what I experienced on Saturday in Texas at a humanitarian respite center run by Catholic Charities. But first, a little background…
I’m an outspoken pro-life woman. A movie, “Unplanned,” was made about my conversion from Planned Parenthood clinic director to pro-life advocate. While being pro-life is certainly about helping women in crisis pregnancies and caring for their needs, it’s also about helping the most vulnerable, no matter where they are.
Volunteers unloading the truck of supplies at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
I have eight children, I run a non-profit ministry, and I travel around the world as a speaker — I’m a good multi-tasker. I can help people in my community, in my country and even in other parts of the world.
My friend, Destiny Herdon-De La Rosa, who runs New Wave Feminists, is also a pretty good multi-tasker and came up with the idea to help these immigrants we were seeing in the news. I jumped right in because that’s what a pro-life woman should do.
The Bottles2TheBorder campaign was born from pro-life women who wanted to do more to help others. And we weren’t alone. We created a registry of items needed at the respite center run by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas.
Warehouse of supplies in respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
That registry sold out in a matter of days so we created another one, which we had to close because we had too many items to take down there and needed time to sort it all before bringing it to the border.
A man from a local church in Houston heard about our efforts and donated an 18-wheeler to haul the items to McAllen. Over $120,000 worth of items were donated, which was used to purchase water, pull-ups, powdered milk, and a host of other supplies to bring with us.
When we got to the respite center on Saturday there was a press conference with several Democratic members of Congress at the same location.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, New Wave Feminists, unloads water at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
National media were covering their field trip, which reached its lowest point when aides to the Congressmen and women gave them cheap toys, which they, in turn, gave to the little kids at the respite center in front of all the cameras for the ideal photo op.
They were dressed in starched suits and pressed dresses, pants, high heels, and polished shoes.
I headed into the center in shorts and a T-shirt I had snagged from Groupon, minutes after pumping milk for my six-week-old baby, and walked up to the group after their photo-op because I had something to say.
Abby Johnson (in shorts and black top) speaking with Democratic members of Congress at the respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
I introduced myself and said we had an 18-wheeler arriving at the respite center in the next 20 minutes full of supplies for these poor people, who had nothing and needed help unloading it. I told them their cheap toys and photo op wasn’t helping these people.
Abby Johnson and others getting ready to unload supplies at the respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
If they truly wanted to help, they could lend a hand in unloading the semi-truck in the 102-degree heat with all of us women who came from all over Texas to help.
They looked stunned that someone had the gall to ask them to actually do something, as in not just for the cameras. They told me they couldn’t help because they only had 10 more minutes, which they used to move to the other side of the room and continue their press conference — for another 30 minutes. They told me they “would help,” but they had another press opportunity to get to.
Volunteers line up to get supplies from the truck into the respite center warehouse in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
President Ronald Reagan once said that the most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” He should have added, “…to help and to have a photo op.” This trip to the border wasn’t about politics; it was about people. But seeing those Congressional representatives blatantly use those immigrants for their own political purposes was sickening, especially since there was a legitimate opportunity to do something to actually help them right at the center.
We didn’t give up though. Rep. Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas, who donated $1,000 to the center, according to the monitor, walked by our 18-wheeler as we were just getting ready to start unloading and we asked him again to help.
Donated diapers for respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
With a dismissive wave of his hand, he smugly said “I’ll send someone” and then walked to his air-conditioned car and left. No one from his office came to help. Are you surprised?
In the end, we had about two dozen women and a handful of awesome men unload the truck. We unloaded it in the smelly back alley next to half a dozen dumpsters to get everything into the back door of the center, up the dilapidated conveyor belt and into the warehouse.
Volunteers unloading supplies into respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
It took us over three hours in 102-degree heat to unload 119,608 diapers, 13,230 bottles of water, 6,660 pull-ups, 30,000 pairs of shoelaces, 16,172 ounces of formula, 420 canisters of Nido powdered milk, 8,100 maxi pads, 3,100 drawstring backpacks, and thousands of deodorant, baby wipes, bottles, nursing supplies, Lysol, Germ-X, hair ties, baby blankets, Dramamine, Tylenol, Advil, DayQuil, and chapstick.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, New Wave Feminists, and Abby Johnson taking a break from unloading supplies at respite center in McAllen, Texas. (Courtesy of the author)
As we walked through the respite center, we saw moms and dads cradling infants and trying to stem toddler tantrums.
We saw wide-eyed children who were perhaps seeing freedom for the first time.
We saw smiling volunteers handing out whatever the families needed.
We were sore and tired and thirsty and probably smelled horrible. But we did something the government couldn’t do — we used whatever resources we had to make something happen for the good of vulnerable human beings. And the offer still stands for elected officials to help us out next time.
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.