In a February 5 post, I reported that adult migrants travelling illegally with children (family units or FMUs) were being released after a brief processing by Border Patrol along the Southwest border in Texas. On Wednesday, February 17, Del Rio, Texas, Mayor Bruno Lozano posted a video on YouTube begging (not an understatement) President Biden to stop releasing migrants apprehended in and near his city due to a lack of resources exacerbated by the unprecedented winter weather that Texas is experiencing.
This should not be necessary — let alone happen — in the United States.
On Wednesday night, 1.6 million homes and businesses in the Lone Star State had no power as a result of the storm, and many had no access to water, either. A quarter of the state's population has been advised to boil its water before consumption. Del Rio has been especially hard hit, according to the mayor.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of FMUs apprehended by Border Patrol and being released into communities in this country is "rising fast". January is traditionally not a month that sees a lot of illegal migration — over the past eight years, it is when CBP encounters at the Southwest border have cratered.
Nonetheless, according to the Journal, this year is different: "Local officials and aid groups say they haven't seen such large releases of migrants since 2019, when U.S. border officials were overwhelmed by migrant families seeking asylum."
FY 2019 was not the "good old days", at least as it related to CBP's ability to process large numbers of migrants — and in particular FMUs — along the border, as a bipartisan panel report explained. CBP, and Border Patrol in particular, lack the resources in the best of times to handle large surges of aliens generally and FMUs in particular. Those resources were uniquely strained in FY 2019.
The problem is now worse, as CDC Covid-19 protocols have limited CBP's processing and detention space. Many migrants (including FMUs) were expelled back to Mexico during the pandemic under the CDC's Title 42 expulsion order under the Trump administration, but Mexico has begun to refuse their return, as I noted on February 5.
CBP doesn't test the migrants it releases, but will send them for local treatment if they are ill, according to the Journal.
In San Diego, Calif., migrants released by CBP have been quarantined in local hotels for 10 days by the state. In the Rio Grande Valley southeast of Del Rio, aid groups were given testing kits for aliens who were released by CBP before they were sent to buses and shelters. But Del Rio does not have Covid-19 testing for migrants, or the capacity to treat those who are sick, at least not now.
Why is there an increase in illegal migrants? A February 10 Journal article posited many reasons (poverty, gang violence, this summer's hurricanes that affected Central America), but noted: "Authorities also said smugglers in the region have been telling migrants that President Biden's administration, which has reversed many of the Trump administration's strict immigration policies, would be more likely to allow them to stay in the U.S."
That is the "Biden Effect" that my colleague Todd Bensman suggested in November could occur. The Journal reported last week that even the UN is "worried about the wide circulation of rumors that the U.S. border is open, that all asylum applications are being accepted, and that people can get in easily, which are false."
Is it false, though, really? If the administration is not taking strong action to detain migrants who have entered illegally, the smugglers — as much as I hate to say it — may have a point.
I went to Del Rio in the summer of 2017, and it is not a big town. The people there were great, but there is only so much that they can do when the federal government fails to protect the border.
In a post last month captioned "The Calm Before the Immigration Storm: And the cone of probability is growing narrower", I suggested that Biden's campaign rhetoric was going to encourage illegal entrants, regardless of then-President-elect Biden's assertions that changing his predecessor's border policies would take time, and that migrants should not risk the journey to the United States (yet).
I had no idea that the metaphorical storm I referenced would run head-on into a real one. Small-town mayors should not have to beg the president of the United States to do his job.