Biden’s Self-Defeating Lack of Immigration Transparency

‘The most dangerous misinformation is always, without exception, official.'

By Andrew R. Arthur on January 31, 2022

I recently analyzed the president’s “immigration transparency problem”, that is the administration’s failure to disclose salient facts about its immigration policies generally and the effects of those policies on the disaster at the Southwest border. As I explained, the administration is lying to itself, too, but the bigger issue is that its lack of candor is self-defeating, for the president, his party, and for those very policies.

Official Nondisclosure and Censorship. This lack of transparency is part and parcel of a censorious trend that is gripping our society today. I hazard to tread on the issue, lest the power of the U.S. government and the Twitterati come down on my head, but it requires (not just merits) at least passing notice.

Unless you’re living in a cave, you know there have been several attempts lately by various parties to “temper” discourse relating to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

For example, if you are one of the nearly three billion people on Facebook, you are likely familiar with the platform’s Covid-19 policies. Just mention the novel coronavirus on that site, and you will likely get the banner telling you where you can “Get Vaccine Info”, seemingly regardless of what you say.

It was in connection with such efforts that Matt Taibbi published a piece on Substack captioned “The Folly of Pandemic Censorship”.

I have no opinion about much that is contained in that article, but Taibbi makes two key points.

The first: “Even in a society with fairly robust protections, as ours once was, the most dangerous misinformation is always, without exception, official.” The second: “People know authorities lie, which is why the more they clamp down, the bigger their trust problem usually becomes.”

A Lack of Transparency on Immigration. This brings me back to the Biden administration’s lack of transparency when it comes to immigration. You see, DHS isn’t censoring you and me so much as it is censoring itself, but the effect is the same.

How many of the nearly 619,000 illegal migrants apprehended by Border Patrol at the Southwest border in FY 2021 who weren’t expelled under CDC orders issued under Title 42 of the U.S. Code were instead released into the United States? No idea.

How many of those illegal migrants were detained? I can’t tell you because they won’t tell me. How many have been granted asylum? Nobody’s saying.

How many “got-aways” — illegal migrants who successfully evaded Border Patrol apprehension and proceeded into the interior of the United States — were there last fiscal year? CBP has an estimate, but the agency is not sharing it with anybody.

Note, however, that DHS’s self-censorship on these and endless other statistics has much in common with Facebook’s policies, but there is one significant difference.

I have no reason to doubt that website has anything other than the public good at heart. Does that mean that skeptics are wrong? I am not a doctor, so I have no idea one way or the other — just give me the facts.

Biden’s Immigration Policies Are a Stark Departure from the Past — But Are They Any Good? It appears, however, that the administration’s lack of transparency has everything to do with its own interests, and nothing to do with the public’s. President Biden’s immigration policies are not only a stark departure from President Trump’s but also from President Obama’s and both Presidents Bush and Clinton’s, too.

Deterring illegal entrants has been U.S. immigration policy for as long as there has been a U.S. immigration policy, but not so much anymore. Biden’s border policies almost exclusively focus on deterring future illegal migrants by addressing the “root causes” of illegal immigration, and even then, just in the “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Given the fact that thus far in FY 2022, Border Patrol at the Southwest border has apprehended nearly 180,000 illegal migrants who weren’t from Mexico or the Northern Triangle, such a policy is useless. Of course, given the fact that such “root causes” (poverty, crime, corruption) are endemic in the Northern Triangle, this focus will be worthless in the short term (and likely even in the long term) in deterring migrants from there, too.

Even in the best light, DHS’s lack of transparency is akin to the classic Jack Nicholson line in A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!” In essence, the administration believes that if you had these statistics, you would be unable to appreciate the nuances and finer points of its attempts to create a “just, fair, and equitable” immigration regime until they have already finished their plans.

This is akin to what my mother used to do when she would try to introduce “healthy” foods into my diet. She would not tell me that the meat she was cooking was, for example, liver or beef heart, believing that once I started eating it, I would appreciate the texture and flavor. It never worked for her, and there is no reason to believe that it will work for the Biden administration, either.

That’s the best light. The worst is that the president and his advisors couldn’t care less what you want and are going to keep you in the dark indefinitely about what they are doing, lest you figure it out and complain.

There is a certain elitism that attaches to either approach. In essence, the administration is saying that your hidebound resistance to open borders (for whatever base, odious, and distasteful reason) blinds your appreciation for the bigger picture. It’s not that “you can’t handle the truth”, it’s that “you cannot understand the truth, and you never will, so we are going to do what we want.”

The Biden Administration Wants Its Immigration Policies to Last Forever. There is reason to believe that this is exactly what is happening. A January 27 Bloomberg Government article captioned “Biden Aide Plots Immigration Wins to Avoid Congress Gridlock” describes how Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein has been enlisted to draft immigration proposals that will survive judicial scrutiny and “make it harder for a future administration to weaken immigrant protections”.

Read that last part again; in other words, the Biden administration has hired a legal expert to ensure that, even if the voters reject the president and his immigration policies, the electorate will still be largely stuck with those policies forever.

An Immigration Reckoning Is Coming Sooner or Later. I have only the highest respect for Sunstein, who is a better lawyer and author than I could ever hope to be. But he will ultimately fail. I don’t say that because Sunstein can’t draft some gavel-proof regulations (he can), but because I have seen this movie before and know how it ends.

You can only do an end-run around the American people and their representatives when it comes to immigration for so long. History is replete with instances where an administration has attempted to “weaken” the immigration laws, only to have Congress come back and swing the pendulum the other way.

The best example is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). Congressional Republicans, who had not held control of the House for 40 years, got into power in 1995, and when they did they broadened the grounds of removability, tightened up on immigration relief and protection, and limited the power of the executive to simply allow aliens in at its caprice.

Voters Will Not Give Biden the Benefit of the Doubt if Kept in the Dark. This brings me back to Taibbi’s second point, about the people becoming less trusting in authorities as the authorities attempt to clamp down on the flow of information.

Again, the issue here isn’t the administration clamping down on the flow of information so much as it is DHS clamming up when it comes to immigration and border facts, but the point is equally valid. I alluded to this problem in my earlier post, but the issue has become more patent since then.

New video has surfaced of federal contractors flying migrants in the dead of night to a regional airport in Westchester, N.Y., in August. Rob Astorino, former Westchester County executive, obtained the video through a FOIA request.

On the audio portion, a local police sergeant can be heard asking a contractor what was going on. The response:

You don’t want to be in somewhere the spotlight is. ... You want to try and be as down low as possible. A lot of this is just down-low stuff that we don’t tell people because what we don’t want to do is attract attention. We don’t want the media. Like we don’t even know where we’re going when they tell us.

There may be a lot of good reasons why the federal government would fly migrants more than 1,000 miles to upstate New York, but such evasion and sketchiness does not leave an objective observer disposed to give the authorities the benefit of the doubt.

The Administration Has Created an Information Vacuum — To Its Own Detriment. Be it Cass Sunstein laboring quietly in his ivory cloister, DHS’s refusing to release unfavorable statistics, or contractors flying migrants to parts unknown while endeavoring to avoid the media, the Biden administration has created an information vacuum into which a skeptical public will pour its own dour suspicions.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that “wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

The 46th president could take a lesson from the third, and start being more forthright when it comes to what his administration is doing at the border, and what effects his immigration policies are having. The people can handle the truth, and they deserve to get it. If they don’t, they will just start drawing their own conclusions, which will inevitably be unfavorable to the administration and its policies.