DHS Not Asking for More Border Patrol Agents

Billions for tribute, but not one new cent for defense

By Andrew R. Arthur on June 21, 2021

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appeared before the House Homeland Security Committee last week to discuss his department’s FY 2022 budget request. The main takeaways? One, DHS is having trouble filling its ranks of Border Patrol agents; and, two, it has no plans to ask for any more.

Well, that’s that. Keep in mind that at the same time that it has placed a freeze on requesting additional new agents, the Biden administration is planning what the Washington Post has described as a “four-year, $4 billion plan for Central America — investing in the local economies and nongovernmental organizations to convince would-be migrants to stay home”.

Here’s a history lesson: In 1797, the United States sent Elbridge Gerry, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and John Marshall to France to negotiate a treaty. French Foreign Minister Charles Talleyrand (a pragmatist if ever there was one), however, kept them waiting and then demanded a loan for his country and a bribe for himself to open negotiations, in what has come to be called the “XYZ Affair”.

They refused and a naval quasi-war ensued, with President John Adams requesting military funding from Congress. Still, the trio’s principled stance was lauded, and at a dinner in Marshall’s honor, Rep. Robert Goodloe Harper (Federalist-S.C.) famously toasted future Chief Justice Marshall, proclaiming: “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”

In essence, Biden and Mayorkas have turned Harper’s toast on its head. They would prefer to pay the countries from which more than 40 percent of the migrants this fiscal year have hailed (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) instead of asking Congress for more money to hire additional agents to defend the border.

I suppose there would be some logic to this if Mayorkas were correct in his assertions that the current surge of illegal migrants at the Southwest border is “due to ongoing violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty” in their home countries. There is no reason to believe that Mayorkas is correct, however.

Take recent statements by Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. After meeting with “Border Czar” Vice President Kamala Harris, Giammattei had a different take on the causes of the surge on June 9, blaming the Biden administration’s statements on immigration:

Well, humanitarian messages were used here by the coyotes in a distorted manner, because what they said over there is that they will promote family reunification so the coyotes came and took the children and the teenagers to the United States. And the borders were full not only with people from Guatemala, but with a lot of people from all over, which is why our proposal is that messages should be clear. The vice president sent a clear message yesterday of not to come because we will not let you in. That's a clear message.

But if you have a lukewarm message, it only creates the opportunity to misinterpret.

The “family reunification” part is right from Biden’s campaign website, where he promised in his first 100 days to “immediately reverse” what he deemed “the Trump Administration’s cruel and senseless policies that separate parents from their children at our border, . . . and prioritize the reunification of any children still separated from their families.”

Biden also promised to “end prolonged detention” and reverse “Trump’s curtailment of asylum processes and his failure to properly apply U.S. asylum laws” (the latter a proposition for which he offered no proof).

Harris did, in fact, address the issue of illegal migration after meeting with Giammattei, stating in a press conference with the Guatemalan president: “I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come, do not come.”

She continued:

The United States will continue to enforce our laws, and secure our border. There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur, but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration. ... And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.

Good up to that point, but later on Harris backtracked, telling EFE on June 10: “Let me be very clear, I am committed to making sure we provide a safe haven for those seeking asylum, period”.

The Biden administration apparently has no appreciation for the impact its words and policies have on foreign nationals who are looking for higher wages and a better quality of life, but the situation at the border reveals that impact is real and exceptionally strong.

Anyone who has worked in immigration for any period of time knows that even judicial opinions can trigger departures of nationals of countries across the world to the United States. Wholesale shifts in policies between administrations, logically, generate seismic reactions of the sort that have occurred since February along the Southwest border.

On June 12, the British journal The Economist explained how “Social media are turbocharging the export of America’s political culture,” and the U.S. presidency likely has the most significant social media presence in the world (hence the hullaballoo over the suspension of then-President Donald Trump from Twitter and Facebook).

Then-candidate Biden may have directed his campaign speeches and website toward American voters, but the internet is global (The Economist notes CNN and the New York Times rank two and three, respectively, among the most-visited English-language news websites in the world), and his foreign audience was obviously far more interested in his immigration message than the U.S. press ever was.

The president seems unlikely to change his tune on immigration anytime soon (and it’s questionable whether any shift would quickly undo the damage already done), and it’s doubtful Harris’s diplomatic endeavors and American cash will bear substantive fruit anytime soon (if ever, based on Giammattei’s statements).

Given this, it is incumbent on the administration to control and defend the border by hiring new agents and requesting funding for even more. At last count, there were fewer than 17,000 of them along the 1,954-mile Southwest border, which is fewer than half as many officers as there are in the New York Police Department (36,008).

New York City is 301 square miles (more or less) large, while by comparison, the Border Patrol’s Big Bend Sector in Texas alone covers 165,154 square miles. Most of that sector is barren land, but even in the Rio Grande Valley — the border’s busiest sector — agents are responsible for an area of more than 17,000 square miles. Do the math.

DHS’s FY 2022 budget request is just that — the administration’s request for funding. Congress holds the purse strings under our constitutional order, and it should dip into the purse to fully fund the Border Patrol and then some. If the administration is not going to control the massive migrant flow and defend the border, somebody has to.