By Arab News
By Dalia Al-Aquidi*
Before the end of his second month in the White House, US President Joe Biden is facing an escalating crisis on the country’s southern border with Mexico.
Shortly after taking office, Biden made drastic changes to US immigration policy that were aimed at undoing his predecessor’s actions. During his presidential campaign, he promised a “fair and humane” immigration system. However, his premature decision, especially during a pandemic, has created a migrant surge that is slowly getting out of control.
According to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency encountered 100,441 people attempting to illegally cross the border from Mexico in February, a 28 percent increase on January’s figure. This included 19,246 individuals in family units, 9,457 unaccompanied children and 71,598 single adults.
Although Biden was warned by his advisers that the number of children crossing the US border without their parents would likely exceed the previous record by far, the White House refused to describe the surge in unaccompanied children as a “crisis.” “I don’t think we need to sit here and put new labels on what we have already conveyed is challenging, what we have conveyed is a top priority for the president,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a daily briefing last week. She described Biden’s policy to take in unaccompanied children who have crossed the border into the US as the only “humane” response to this difficult situation. Psaki’s interpretation was shared by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who reiterated that the situation was “overwhelming” but not a crisis.
The Washington Post reported that Russell Hott, a senior official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told staff in an email that the number of unaccompanied minors and families arriving at the US border this year is expected to be the “the highest observed in over 20 years.”
Is it the right time for the US to adopt an open-border policy in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than half a million Americans, forced tens of thousands of small businesses to shut down, and left millions without jobs to support their families? It is a no-brainer that such policies would encourage illegal migration, enrich the “coyote” human traffickers, and empower Mexican drug cartels.
The CBP has reported that its agents, along with Air and Marine Operations officials, have “continued to interdict the flow of illicit narcotics across the border.” Nationwide, drug seizures increased 50 percent in February compared to January. The Biden administration should take this matter seriously and prioritize the country over political agendas.
The new president has abolished the Donald Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” which prevented the migrants of Central America from entering the US while their asylum claims were processed. This step was described by former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf as “inhumane.” He told Fox News: “We know that the vast majority of these folks do not qualify for asylum, and so they are eventually going to have to be deported or leave the country and go back to their countries of origin. They know that the Biden administration knows that. So they are selling these individuals a lie, encouraging them to put themselves in the hands of smugglers and traffickers, and so my opinion is that is the most inhumane message in any humane policy that you can deliver.”
The American taxpayer knows quite well that, even if asylum is denied, there will be no method to locate and deport the migrant, which explains the large number of illegal immigrants living and working in the US.
The battle between the two parties and their ideologies has just started and it seems that the far left is putting a lot of pressure on the administration to achieve its goals. Immigration policies will be at the center of the 2022 midterm elections and Republicans should focus on this crisis to get the House back.
- Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. She is a former Republican congressional candidate. Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi