When the Biden administration announced on Day One that those claiming asylum at the southern border would no longer be forced to stay in Mexico until their court date, it signaled to the entire hemisphere the United States was taking a new, more lax approach to its stance on immigration.
It began with phasing out that effective “Remain-in-Mexico” policy, which was later reinstated by court order, and has marched steadily on each day since. It continued with the reversal of asylum restrictions, a 100-day pause on deportations and enforcement by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the halting of ongoing border wall projects already funded and appropriated by Congress.
Last fall, reports indicated the Biden administration was considering settlement payments, to the tune of $450,000 per person, to families who had been separated at the border during the Trump administration. And, most recently, the CDC announced it would end its Title 42 authority, which has enabled Border Patrol to quickly expel illegal immigrants at the border at a more than 50 percent rate.
At face value, all of these policy changes represent drastic shifts in how the United States enforces the law, and more practically, how we secure our nation. The Biden presidency, however, will be defined in part by these very policies, notably due to the abject failure to perform those two basic functions of a sovereign state.
Every month, Congress anticipates the release of the number of illegal encounters at the southern border. And seemingly every month, the numbers are higher than the year prior. This past February, there were 164,973 apprehensions, compared to 101,000 in February 2021. Border Patrol is currently taking 7,000 illegal immigrants into custody every single day.
Never before has there been such a crystal clear cause and effect to America’s immigration policy. In Fiscal Year 2021, there were 1.7 million apprehensions at the southern border, the most ever. The White House would like to claim President Biden inherited a mess, or that the alarming migration patterns of the past 14 months are seasonal. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Raul Ortiz’s own words dispute these falsehoods, recently warning Border Patrol is just “days” away from hitting the million mark again for this fiscal year, which is a mere six months old.
Republicans often toss around the word “crisis” to describe what’s been happening at our southern border. And indeed it is a crisis. No one who has witnessed the situation firsthand, seen the images of people crossing the Rio Grande en masse, or looked at the record-setting numbers can honestly say it is anything less than a crisis.
Through policy decision after policy decision, President Biden has created a crisis that is about to balloon into a full blown catastrophe. If the president goes through with his plan to end Title 42 authority, the only tool he has thus far allowed border agents to keep, it will be yet another critical misstep, perhaps the most devastating yet. Border Patrol anticipates daily apprehensions would double, and the floodgates would open to hundreds of thousands of migrants who are just days or weeks away from the U.S.-Mexico border.
America needs presidential leadership to address this national situation. Without it, President Biden will have neglected one of his basic responsibilities in favor of mass migration, including the influx of deadly drugs, rise in human trafficking, and risks to our national security. He will have nothing and no one to blame — not a pandemic nor a former president — but himself.
Senator Capito represents West Virginia in the U.S. Senate, and is ranking member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
# # #