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Opinion

Biden stands down at the border

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President Joe Biden is ceasing the execution of federal immigration laws, and the worst crisis in 20 years (by his own Department of Homeland Security secretary’s admission) is likely to reach an unprecedented level.

Let’s take a look at how we got here. On his first half-day in office, Biden’s DHS terminated enrollment in the Migrant Protection Protocols. Otherwise known as “Remain in Mexico,” this program provided that migrants who “illegally or without proper documentation” entered the United States from Mexico would be returned there while their claims for asylum were processed.

This program alone greatly diminished the appeal of illegally entering the U.S. when people learned that they would not be released into the interior of the U.S. after initially making their claim. After all, the vast majority of claims are made simply to obtain such release into the U.S. so that migrants can reach the safety and prosperity our country offers.

With the termination of the MPP, migrants can now return to the practice of illegally entering the U.S., and, if caught, they can make a (most likely spurious) claim for asylum with the confidence they will be released into the interior of the U.S. and be given a shot at the American dream. At the time of their release, those migrants will be given a notice to appear before an immigration judge to hear the final determination on their claim.

Not only did the Biden DHS stop new enrollments into the MPP program, but it’s also in the process of transitioning those enrolled during the Trump administration and temporarily residing in Mexico back to the U.S. for continued processing and release into the interior of the country.

Nearly simultaneous with the termination of new enrollments into the MPP, Biden’s DHS placed a “100-day pause” on most deportations. When the attorney general of Texas filed suit claiming he and his fellow Texans would be understandably harmed by such an (in)action, a federal judge indefinitely blocked the president from not doing his job to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” But as has been noted by other observers, the judge simply said that the Biden administration could not stop the deportation process. He didn’t say how quickly the president should faithfully do his job.

One way to bring the deportation of illegal immigrants to a crawl would be to reassign personnel to another role. This was no doubt the motivation for a recent call between DHS leadership and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. The call included the discussion of potential plans to move deportation officers to criminal investigators. According to one report, the transition would be similar to “a city police department converting its beat cops to detectives, leaving nobody to patrol the streets for basic crimes.” Such a transition of personnel would not only slow the deportation process, but it would also affect the arrest of many who are in the U.S. illegally. This would drastically slow much of the execution of immigration law at both the front end and the back end.

Finally, as the numbers of migrants entering the southern border has overwhelmed our ability to respond, the most hard-hit sector, Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, has recently discontinued the issuance of notices to appear to asylum claimants in order to “process” migrants more quickly, especially minors, who have recently flooded the sector.

Recall that these notices to appear are issued to migrants apprehended at the border who have made a claim for asylum in the U.S. The worst-kept secret in this entire scheme is that once the person is out of sight from government officials, the notice is disposed of, and the migrant is effectively free to wander the fruited plains of the U.S. This most recent change in asylum processing dispenses with the facade for the pressing purpose of moving migrants, especially migrant children, out of severely overcrowded detention facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To be fair to the unconscionably overworked defenders of our southern border, we must remember that the Biden administration has added to Border Patrol’s concerns at these facilities by removing the public health bar of many new minor child entries into the U.S. during the pandemic. And we know what will happen when news of these developments reaches would-be migrants through the smuggling industry that exploits them.

These changes to the execution of immigration laws in the first two months of Biden’s first term are stressing the southwest border in a way that can only result in greater chaos as winter turns to spring. The administration is standing down — and the U.S., as well as the migrants themselves, will suffer for it.

John Hostettler is the vice president for federal affairs for states trust at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. From 1995 to 2007, he served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims for three terms.

Washington Examiner

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