Biden Wants to Make ICE and Border Patrol Agents Pay for Covid-19 Border Policy Failures

By Andrew R. Arthur on September 9, 2021

In my last post, I discussed the Biden administration’s September 7 request for money and additional authorities to legalize the large number of Afghan nationals it is haphazardly bringing to the United States. That is not the only immigration “anomaly” that the president’s administration is trying to address in that “continuing resolution” (CR). It is also attempting to paper over its Covid-19 border policy failures — with cash taken from ICE and Border Patrol agents.

I have written extensively about the incongruity between the Biden administration’s stringent response to Covid-19 as it relates to the American public compared to its much more permissive policies for dealing with migrants at the border.

The Biden administration did keep Trump-era orders issued by the CDC under Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, even while it ditched most of the other policies implemented by the 45th president that had brought some measure of control to the border. Those Title 42 orders allow DHS to quickly expel migrants who have entered illegally or without proper documents.

That said, of the nearly 200,000 illegal migrants apprehended at the Southwest border in July (August’s numbers have not yet been published), only 93,781 (47 percent of the total) were expelled under Title 42, and 89 percent of those expelled were single adults.

The rest of those illegal migrants who were not expelled were supposed to be detained under section 235(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), but most were not, or at least weren’t for any extended period of time.

Worse, the CDC’s latest Title 42 order reveals that CBP has been releasing illegal migrants without testing them for Covid-19. Rather, testing has been left up to local governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

If those aliens subsequently test positive for Covid-19, they are supposed to be “quarantined” by NGOs, but some have apparently been able to move freely within border communities, despite the fact that local officials claim they were never told those infected with Covid-19 were being housed there.

In its September 7 proposed CR, the Biden administration wants to reimburse those “third parties for costs associated with COVID-19 pandemic testing and isolation shelter services for select migrants who are released from DHS custody”. I have no idea what the “selection criteria” are for those migrants, but that sounds reasonable — up to a point.

Here are the problems with the administration’s budget request.

First, the money to pay those “third parties” is not coming out of the Treasury. Rather, it is coming from the “Operations and Support” budgets for CBP and ICE, which the agencies use to pay their front-line officers and agents.

With illegal immigration running at both monthly and yearly 21-year highs at the Southwest border, CBP needs as much funding as it can get. That is especially true of Border Patrol, which has so many illegal migrants to process and care for that it is stretched to the “breaking point”, and is largely unable to actually patrol much of the border.

As for ICE, the Biden administration contends that the agency is so underfunded that the president’s subordinates have had to “prioritize” its immigration-enforcement activities to such a degree that unless an alien is a terrorist, spy, recent entrant, aggravated felon, or “select” gang member, ICE agents and officers are not even allowed to talk to them. Even if the INA says that they are supposed to be detained and removed.

Of course, such contentions are baseless and are simply being used to cover up the fact that Biden does not even want every-day criminal illegal aliens to be removed. (At least one federal judge doesn’t buy it and has told the administration to cut it out.) But even if you assumed those contentions to be true, the fact that the president wants to take money from ICE to pay third parties for Covid-19 testing and “isolation” proves they aren’t.

The second problem with the president’s anomaly funding request is its rationale:

Without this anomaly, migrants would either need to remain in DHS custody in order to receive [testing and isolation] services, or, if provided by [NGOs], those organizations would not be reimbursed. Without reimbursement, NGOs may be unable to provide testing and isolation services.

As I noted above, the INA requires those aliens to all remain in DHS custody. The Biden administration is literally asking Congress for money to do the exact opposite of what Congress has told it to do.

Why did Congress tell DHS to detain those aliens? Two reasons: (1) To make sure that they would show up for their hearings and not abscond; and (2) take away the ability of those aliens to be released to live and work indefinitely in the United States — the reasons they entered illegally to begin with.

Had the Biden administration detained those aliens as it was required to do by law and prevented them from living and working indefinitely in the United States, illegal migrants would not be breaking 21-year-old records for illicit entries at the Southwest border.

Now, Biden wants ICE officers and Border Patrol agents to pay for the fact that his release policies were destined to fail from the beginning (I predicted what would happen in January 2020, a year before he was sworn in, and I’m no genius), and that he refuses to face reality and change them.

Let me bottom-line it for you: The president should be asking for money to detain illegal migrants, but instead he is asking for money not to detain illegal migrants. Read the excerpt above again: it gets more surreal with each review.

The president’s border policies are a disaster, particularly as they relate to controlling the further spread of new variants of Covid-19. Instead of changing his policies in response to that threat, as he is asking hundreds of millions of Americans to change their lives, he is demanding that Congress allow him to take money from ICE and Border Patrol agents to paper over his failures. That is a disgrace.