CBP has just released its latest numbers for the agency's "encounters" at the Southwest border for February. Encounters are the sum of Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal migrants plus aliens deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry by CBP officers. As expected, those numbers are sky-high, and the Biden administration is in denial about the causes.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was pilloried on March 1 for denying that there is an ongoing "crisis" at the border (with no small amount of pluck, he simply called it a "challenge"). I generally eschew fights over semantics, but respectfully, if this is not a "crisis", I hate to think of what one would look like.
Here's what I mean: In February, there were 100,441 CBP encounters at the Southwest border, up from 78,442 the month before. Of those encounters, most (96,974 or 96.5 percent) were aliens apprehended by Border Patrol after entering illegally. You have to go all the way back to 2006 to find a February in which Border Patrol apprehensions were that high.
Of course, in February 2006 (and up until 2011) most migrants apprehended by Border Patrol at the Southwest border were single adult males from Mexico. Border Patrol did not even publish statistics on unaccompanied alien children — UACs — until 2010, or on adult migrants with children — family units or FMUs — until 2013.
Last month, most of the aliens apprehended by Border Patrol (just less than 71 percent) were single adults, and most were likely Mexican nationals (CBP does not include monthly breakdowns by nationality). But in February, 19.5 percent were FMUs, and an astounding 9,297 (9.58 percent) were UACs.
It is no wonder that the Biden administration is reopening Trump-era shelters for UACs near the border.
These are not good numbers, as the figure accompanying CBP's report reveals. Southwest border encounters are on the same trajectory that they were at during the humanitarian and national-security disaster of FY 2019, only the trend lines are higher this time around. At least then administration officials were honest about the situation, and the causes.
Here is what then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had to say when faced with a similar "challenge" on March 6, 2019:
The truth is that the politics and policies of open borders have failed the American people. Our broken system endures, and the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis at our Southwest Border leaves many minors and families at extreme risk of being exploited by traffickers, human smugglers, gangs, and other nefarious actors seeking to profit at their expense. ... Activist courts, congressional inaction, and criminals intent on breaking our laws stand in the way of confronting illegal and uncontrolled migration threatening our safety and security. What was a crisis, is now a full-fledged emergency. [Emphasis added.]
On March 10, by contrast, Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, speaking for the Biden administration, blamed the current influx on (among other things) two hurricanes this summer in Central America and "coffee rust".
She also blamed the Trump administration, stating: "Surges tend to respond to hope, and there was a significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of pent-up demand." Ambassador Jacobson issued no calls for Congress to close the loopholes that encourage migrants (and in particular FMUs and UACs) to enter illegally.
To be fair, Border Patrol expelled more than 70,000 of the aliens it apprehended in February under Trump-era CDC Title 42 authority, which was issued in response to the ongoing pandemic. Therefore, many of those migrants were likely recidivists, meaning they were counted more than once in the CBP total. It would be great if CBP published the recidivism numbers (which it could), but it doesn't.
But recidivism was also a problem in February 2006. While Border Patrol could not perform Title 42 expulsions 14 Februarys ago, given the fact that most migrants then were adults from Mexico, it could quickly turn them around under expedited removal or voluntary return. That said, almost none — if any — of those 70,000 aliens who were expelled were UACs or FMUs.
Border Patrol does not have the facilities to detain FMUs for any extended period of time (and thus usually releases them into the United States), and has to quickly hand non-Mexican UACs over to the Department of Health and Human Services under a 2008 law for placement with sponsors in the United States — most of whom are here illegally.
That 2008 law encourages the family members of those UACs to pay to have them smuggled here to begin with, as I have explained many, many times in the past.
In that vein, on March 9, The New Yorker reported: "Biden is trying to expedite the process by having the government help pay the travel expenses involved in placing children with sponsors."
That will simply increase the incentives for families to have their children smuggled to this country — endangering those children as Secretary Nielsen noted two years ago, and lining the pockets of the smugglers and the cartels they pay tribute to.
Call it what you want — a "challenge", a "crisis", or an "emergency" — the situation at the border is bad and getting worse. Unless the Biden administration recognizes the deficiencies in U.S. law that encourage illegal entry (an unlikely scenario), the border will quickly devolve into disaster, one next to which 2019 will pale in comparison.