Morgan Griffith: Biden’s crisis at the southern border
Abraham Lincoln was fond of a question that asked: if you call a sheep’s tail a leg, how many legs does it have?
If someone answered five, Lincoln said, he would be wrong; calling a tail a leg does not make it so.
President Biden has chosen not to heed this lesson. The situation on America’s southern border is a crisis, even when his Administration has refused to acknowledge it.
Border security was a priority of President Trump and his Administration. Most notably, he made progress on the border wall despite intense Democrat resistance in Congress, but the wall was not the only measure. The United States reached agreements with several Central American countries that had them take in some of the asylum seekers attempting to enter our country, and the Migrant Protection Protocols required asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while American officials processed their claims.
In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, enforcement agencies invoked a section of immigration law that permits fast deportation of illegal immigrants to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
President Biden entered office determined to reverse these policies. He halted construction of the border wall, even though Congress had just appropriated $1.4 billion for it in December. He resumed the “catch and release” policies of apprehending illegal immigrants and then letting them go within our country. The “Remain in Mexico” policy and asylum agreements with Central American countries were cancelled, and unaccompanied minors would no longer be returned from the border.
These actions follow a campaign in which Joe Biden vowed to deliver citizenship for illegal immigrants and said he would end the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
As if the message sent by these actions were not enough, his Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, who is charged with enforcing immigration laws, said at a White House press briefing: “We are not saying, ‘Don’t come.’ We are saying, ‘Don’t come now,’” suggesting that illegal immigration itself was not a problem, only the timing of it.
The outcome from this clear aversion to immigration enforcement was predictable. Before President Biden’s inauguration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered fewer than 1,000 family units per week attempting to cross the border. Now that rate is at 6,000 per week.
In February 2020, CBP encountered 36,687 migrants at the border. This February, it encountered 100,441 – an increase of more than 170 percent. This scale of illegal immigrant apprehension at the border in February has not been seen since 2006.
Many of these illegal immigrants are unaccompanied minors. Federal law requires that they be transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which then finds sponsors in the United States to take in the minors. But the spike in arrivals has jammed the process, so CBP is forced to hold the minors for longer than the time limits imposed by law.
Large numbers of people being held in close quarters and then released obviously pose a serious problem during a pandemic, yet the Biden Administration has released illegal immigrants into the U.S. without testing them for COVID-19, and congressional Democrats have rejected efforts to require testing of apprehended illegal immigrants.
COVID is only one of the dangers from the border surge threatening the health and safety of both Americans and migrants. Smugglers and human traffickers victimize those making the trek to the border, and Biden’s CBP has confirmed that four people arrested at the border since October 1 match names in a terrorist tracking database. Border patrol officers have been taken off the border and reassigned to process migrants. The coyotes and smugglers know how to exploit this additional gap in border security.
Yet when Secretary Mayorkas appeared at a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on March 17, he followed the lead of his boss, President Biden, and repeatedly refused to call the situation at the border what it is: a crisis.
I strongly believe in legal immigration. In fact, I would like to see our country welcome more legal immigrants. The Biden Administration’s reckless border security policies are deeply unfair to immigrants who want to become Americans the right way and diminish the rule of law, one of the defining traits of our republican system.
In only two months, the Biden Administration has turned upside down policies meant to secure our border, enforce immigration law, and treat fairly those who want to share in the American dream legally. The consequences are incurring a real cost. Americans and those who want to be Americans deserve better.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.
Morgan Griffith represents the Ninth District of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.