Biden Doesn’t Have a Border Plan, Likely for Good Reason

Few Americans know the facts about illegal immigration, and most Democrats don’t care

By Andrew R. Arthur on December 27, 2022

The looming end of CDC orders mandating the expulsion of illegal migrants, issued under Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, raises the question of how the administration plans on dealing with record numbers of aliens entering the United States illegally at the Southwest border. It doesn’t appear the administration has a plan, however, aside from funneling increasing numbers of migrants into the United States indefinitely. The logical explanation for this fecklessness is that few Americans know the facts about the border and Biden’s Democratic base doesn’t care about illegal migration, so he doesn’t care either.

Trump’s Border Policies. Biden is not the only president who has dealt with a migrant surge — just the most recent.

When faced with a much smaller crisis at the Southwest border in FY 2019 — a year in which Border Patrol apprehended just over 851,500 migrants there — the Trump administration implemented numerous policies to stem the tide of illegal entries.

The most prominent, and successful, of those policies was the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), better known as “Remain in Mexico”. Under MPP, non-Mexican aliens apprehended at the Southwest border were returned to Mexico to await their asylum hearings at border “port courts”. If granted asylum, they were admitted, but if denied, they were removed.

In an October 2019 assessment of the program, DHS determined that MPP had “been an indispensable tool in addressing the ongoing crisis at the southern border and restoring integrity to the immigration system”. Asylum cases were expedited under the program, while MPP removed incentives for aliens to make weak or bogus claims after entering the United States illegally.

As that assessment explained, “aliens without meritorious claims — which no longer constitute a free ticket into the United States — are beginning to voluntarily return home.”

MPP and the other border policies Trump implemented are the reason why Biden inherited what Rodney Scott — the new president’s first Border Patrol chief — described in a September 2021 letter to Senate leadership as “arguably the most effective border security in” U.S. history.

Biden’s Visceral Response. “Indispensable” or not, then-candidate Joe Biden derided MPP and the rest of Trump’s border policies, vowing on his campaign website to end them if elected.

Few observers during the 2020 campaign took much note of Biden’s border promises, but in any event, the erstwhile candidate softened his tone once elected.

A month before taking office, Biden promised that, while he would end those Trump policies, he would only do so “at a slower pace than he initially promised, to avoid winding up with '2 million people on our border”, and only after “’setting up the guardrails’ to find a solution to the immigration issue”.

In yet another reversal, however, Biden quickly rescinded nearly all the border policies Trump had implemented (which, again, had brought the security Scott described), quickly after entering office.

Take MPP. DHS issued an announcement on inauguration day suspending new enrollments in the program, effective January 21, 2021. The department next stated three weeks later that it would begin processing the 25,000 migrants who remained in Mexico under the program into the United States.

That prompted the states of Texas and Missouri to push back, filing suit in federal court in Texas two months later to force DHS to keep Remain in Mexico in place. That case (Texas v. Biden) has since been bouncing around the federal judiciary, from district court to the Supreme Court and back again.

Most recently, on December 15, the judge in Texas, Matthew Kacsmaryk, issued an order in the case staying the latest attempt (the second of two) by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to end Remain in Mexico. Expect to see it back before the justices this term, if not next.

While Biden has proven himself adept at ending successful border policies, he has shown little alacrity at crafting “guardrails” to control illegal immigration.

That’s why Title 42 — which is first and foremost a public-health policy — has played an outsized role in DHS border enforcement over the past 23 months.

Which, in turn, makes the administration’s rush to end those CDC orders all the more puzzling. In early April, the administration announced it would end Title 42 in late May, the point in the year at which illegal entries at the Southwest border historically reach their annual peak.

That’s like ripping the shingles off your roof hours before a category three hurricane, but fortunately for the agents who would have had to deal with the inevitable migrant deluge, a separate group of states sued to secure an injunction of CDC’s Title 42 termination three days before it was set to occur.

While that case was making its way on appeal, however, the administration was “opposing” an effort by a group of migrants and advocates in district court in D.C. to vacate and enjoin Title 42 entirely.

The administration had to have known that the judge in that case — Emmet Sullivan — was likely to grant that request (he was no fan of Title 42 in earlier litigation), and yet the administration and DHS were caught seemingly off guard when he did so.

Biden and his advisors were so flatfooted that DOJ had to go — hat in hand — to Judge Sullivan to beg for a five-week reprieve (which he granted, in his words, “WITH GREAT RELUCTANCE”). Not surprisingly, the whole scenario prompted the states who had sued to keep Title 42 to accuse the administration in a Supreme Court filing of “collusively agreeing with” the migrant plaintiffs in the case.

Chief Justice John Roberts has granted a stay of CDC’s lifting of Title 42 while the other justices can weigh the states’ request to appeal Judge Sullivan’s order, but even as the administration told the chief that it opposes the states’ request, it also asked for a short reprieve (until three days after Christmas or two days after that request is denied, whichever is later) before the Court ends Title 42.

Fecklessness, Hubris, and Sanctimony. That would be great if the administration had a master plan in place and ready to go to secure the border as soon as Title 42 ends, but it doesn’t.

My colleagues George Fishman and Todd Bensman, and I have all discussed the details of DHS’s post-Title 42 “preparedness” plan, but in short, the only things the department is prepared to do is channel illegal migrants from the border into the interior as quickly as possible and hide the scope of the resultant disaster by rechristening would-be illegal entrants as “parolees”, allowing them to skip the land border altogether.

If we lived in a nation wholly consisting of indolent trust-fund recipients, and if all migrants were skilled, law-abiding, and industrious benefactors knocking down the nation’s doors to restart and maintain the engine of American commerce, that might be fine. None of that is true, however.

On the labor side, as my colleagues Steve Camarota and Karen Zeigler explained on December 21, nearly two million more immigrants are working in the United States today than before the Covid-19 pandemic, and there is no evidence that the country is facing a “shortfall” of immigrant workers.

On the migrant side, allowing millions of unscreened foreign nationals into the country is a recipe for the worst sort of disaster.

For example, Border Patrol agents apprehended 98 illegal entrants on the foreign terror watchlist in FY 2022, and nine more in the month of October alone. Good for those agents, and I mean that sincerely.

The problem is that 599,000 other illegal migrants evaded Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border in FY 2022, and there were an additional 64,000 such “got-aways” in October. Those numbers raise the specter of how many potential terrorists were in that cadre of 663,000 got-aways (a figure that exceeds the population of Baltimore, Detroit, or Las Vegas).

In its final report, the 9/11 Commission noted ruefully: “In the decade before September 11, 2001, border security — encompassing travel, entry, and immigration — was not seen as a national security matter.” “Border security” is apparently “not seen as a national security matter” in the Biden White House circa 2023, either.

I would use the term “Biden border policy”, but it’s no “policy” at all. It is sheer fecklessness, stirred up in a roux with hubris and a dash of sanctimony. And it’s not getting any better the long it simmers.

“What’s the Point?” A December 23, op-ed by columnist Phil Boas in the Arizona Republic was headlined: “Biden's White House is fine with the chaos it created at the border. What's the endgame?” As he stated:

The White House long ago decided it would manage the border with a light touch, with little concern for the record numbers of border crossers and the stress and expense it places on American society.

The White House has yet to answer this question about its policy:

What’s the point?

Because right now, it seems like chaos is the point. And if so, the policy is spectacularly successful.

I think that I can answer the question, but honestly (and respectfully), it’s the wrong question.

Most Americans Have No Idea How Bad the Border Is. If, like Boas, you live in the border states of Arizona or Texas, or you watch Bill Melugin’s reporting on Fox News, or you read this website, you likely know how bad (read: “out of control, scary and dangerous”) the situation at the border is.

That leaves out a substantial proportion of the citizenry who have no idea what’s occurring at the line, and who are receiving their “news” from outlets whose reporters either don’t know themselves or don’t care. Want proof?

Between December 14 and 15, the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and opinion outfits The Harris Poll and Harris X conducted a poll of 1,851 registered voters. Respondents were asked: “How many border crossings by illegal immigrants do you think are occurring each year?”

In response, 16 percent said “less than 100,000”, 21 percent said “between 100,000 and 250,000”, 18 percent said “between 250,000 and 500,000”, 20 percent said “between 500,000 and 1 million”, 12 percent said “between 1 million and 2 million”, 6 percent said “between 2 million and 3 million”, and 7 percent said, “over 3 million”.

In FY 2022, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended more than 2.2 million illegal entrants, not counting (as noted) 599,000 got-aways. That brings the total number of migrants to more than 2.8 million — more migrants than there are residents in 14 of the United States.

Thus, 87 percent of Americans underestimated how many illegal entrants there were last year, and more than half — 57 percent — were wrong by a factor of two.

Worse, DHS estimates that post-Title 42, up to 14,000 migrants per day will enter the country illegally over the Southwest border. That’s 420,000 per month, or more than five million per year—roughly the population of Connecticut and Delaware combined, and greater than the population of Louisiana, which sued to keep Title 42 in place.

I can’t blame that 87 percent for not knowing what’s going on at their nation’s backdoor. Articles about the border are usually light on facts but almost always shot through with human-interest stories, like “Carlos Hernandez, 40, who left Venezuela in September” and is waiting in Mexico for Title 42 to end, or Ronald Lopez from Colombia, who arrived in Yuma “panting and dizzy, aided by his wife, Diana, and son, Samuel, 9, who was wearing a New York Yankees cap”.

I understand Americans’ concern for Carlos Hernandez, and Ronald Lopez and his family, but multiply them by 700,000 and you have the current border crisis.

Split Between the Parties over Immigration Concerns. Undoubtedly, many of those 87 percent are Democratic voters who have no idea who Bill Melugin is and who get their “news” from outlets that elide the scope of the border disaster.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,004 Americans conducted between December 19 and 20, “Immigration” tied with “Healthcare” as the second-most important issue facing America now, at 9 percent (“Economy, unemployment, and jobs” led at 29 percent).

Concerns about immigration were not evenly split by party in that poll. A whopping 18 percent of Republicans named it their number one issue, while just 3 percent of Democrats did the same. Thus, Republicans are six times more concerned about immigration than Biden’s fellow partisans.

Remember that when Biden was asked in early December why he was going to Arizona but not the border, he responded “There are more important things going on.” That indifference shocked many on the right but didn’t even register with the left. I think I know why.

This could be a “chicken or the egg” issue. Republicans may care more about immigration because they are exposed to more information about the border, or they may seek out more border facts because they’re more concerned about illegal immigration, with the obverse being true of Democrats.

It reminds me of the joke about the father who confronts his son over failing grades, asking the boy: “What is it — ignorance or indifference?” To which the son replies, “I don’t know, Daddy, and I don’t care.”

“What’s the point” of Biden’s feckless and destructive border policies? There likely isn’t one, because when it comes to immigration and the border, the president’s Democratic base doesn’t know and doesn’t care — so Biden doesn’t care, either.