Drowning Deaths and Rescues Reveal the Ignored Perils of Biden’s Border Policies

The inhumanity of non-enforcement

By Andrew R. Arthur on August 26, 2022

Two migrant children died, and an infant is clinging to life, after each was swept under by the waters of the Rio Grande during two separate illegal entry attempts on August 22. Those casualties — and more than 600 others, as well as thousands of CBP rescues this fiscal year alone — reveal the largely ignored perils created by the president’s border policies, and aptly define the inhumanity of the administration’s non-enforcement stance.

“Biden’s Border Fiasco”. There are many elements of what the editorial board at Bloomberg Opinion has described as “Biden’s Border Fiasco”. More than 1.81 million aliens were apprehended by Border Patrol at the Southwest border so far in FY 2022 — an yearly record with two more reporting months to go. The nearly 1.644 million apprehensions there in FY 2021 set the prior yearly record for agents at the Southwest border.

Then there are the 1.129 million-plus migrants who were stopped at the Southwest border and then released into the United States since Biden took office, through the end of June. That’s even though the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) mandates that all illegal entrants be detained, from the point at which they’re caught until they are either removed or granted status here.

Why through the end of June? We only have release numbers thanks to a federal court order mandating those numbers be disclosed. That order was vacated in early August, and the administration doesn’t want the American people to know what it is doing in their name at their border.

Transparency when it comes to immigration is a rare commodity from a president who once pledged to “bring transparency and truth back to government”.

So why are record numbers of foreign nationals entering the United States now that Biden is president? Because unlike every administration that preceded it, stopping migrants from entering the country is not an “objective” of the current one.

Biden and his immigration advisors have concluded that the INA is inherently “inequitable” and that justice would be better served by providing migrants with “safe, orderly, and legal pathways ... to be able to access our legal system”, in immigration court cases that can take years to complete.

Among the three million illegal migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico line under Biden were the more than 251,700 unaccompanied alien children (UACs), minors who have entered the country illegally without parents or other adults.

That includes nearly 217,000 UACs from “non-contiguous” countries, countries other than Mexico and Canada. Under a poorly thought out 2008 law (that even President Obama asked Congress to amend), those children must be released by DHS to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nearly all for placement with “sponsors” (often their parents) here, where they will remain indefinitely.

If all those children were in the same school district, it would be the eighth largest of the approximately 13,800 U.S. public school districts, with more students than the Houston (Texas) Independent School District (2019 enrollment: 214,175).

That said, it’s not clear how many of those kids are in school, because as I explained back in March, HHS has lost nearly 20,000 of the children it had released. I would update that number, but again, the administration doesn’t release a lot of information about aliens, especially when the news is bad.

The Drownings. Speaking of children, the two migrants who drowned on Monday and the one currently clinging to life all unfortunately fall within that category.

One of the dead was a five-year-old girl from Guatemala who was attempting to ford the Rio Grande near El Paso, Texas, with her mother, who was rescued by Mexican authorities. Why would a mother bring a toddler with her during a risky attempt at illegal entry? An adult with a child is a “family unit”, and the Biden administration doesn’t detain family units anymore; thus, the kid is an almost sure ticket to the adult’s release.

The other was a three-year-old boy of unknown nationality, who was part of a group attempting to cross the river illegally in Eagle Pass, Texas, News reports indicate that a two-month-old boy who was with the group was saved but is apparently in critical condition.

Border Deaths and Rescues Soar. These dead are not the first, nor regrettably will they likely be the last.

On July 25, the Washington Examiner reported that 609 migrants had died at the Southwest border so far in FY 2022, already surpassing the 566 deaths there in FY 2021, again the prior record. By comparison, there were 247 border deaths at the U.S.-Mexico line in FY 2020, and 300 in FY 2019.

Border rescues have also soared under Biden. Through the end of July, Border Patrol had conducted 18,897 Southwest border search-and-rescue operations in FY 2022, a 47 percent increase over FY 2021 (12,833), but more significantly a 272 percent rise from FY 2020 (5,071), and 284 percent more than in FY 2019 (4,920).

Those rescues continue. On August 24 in California’s Otay Mountain Wilderness area, agents saved two illegal migrants who were lost and in distress in separate incidents. Agents rescued a male illegal entrant drowning in the Rio Grande near Laredo, Texas, on August 19.

As the drowned children sadly show, agents can’t save them all. The bodies of three males were recovered from the Rio Grande near the Eagle Pass port of entry in separate incidents on August 17, adding to Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector FY 2022 death toll, which already exceeds 200.

The Inhumanity of Non-Enforcement. This is madness, but worse, it's inhumanity.

“Inhumane” was the term that New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) used to describe bus rides that the state of Texas was providing migrants released by DHS to his city. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) shot back at Adams in a New York Post op-ed on August 23, asking:

Where is his self-righteousness when it comes to the fact that Biden’s open-border polices are enticing illegal immigrants to trek — mostly by walking — thousands of miles through treacherous regions in Central America and Mexico, often subjected to rape and torture. Many of those migrants are killed or otherwise lose their lives attempting to come here, but that does not trouble Biden enough to meaningfully discourage such illegal immigration.

It's not that those dangers should be news to Adams, or to anyone else. As a bipartisan federal panel tasked with examining the causes and effects of an increase in family units entering the United States illegally across the border from Mexico found in April 2019:

Migrant children are traumatized during their journey to and into the U.S. The journey from Central America through Mexico to remote regions of the U.S. border is a dangerous one for the children involved, as well as for their parent. There are credible reports that female parents of minor children have been raped, that many migrants are robbed, and that they and their child are held hostage and extorted for money.

Criminal migrant smuggling organizations are preying upon these desperate populations, encouraging their migration to the border despite the dangers, especially in remote places designed to overwhelm existing [Border Patrol] infrastructure, and extorting migrants along the way, thereby reaping millions of dollars for themselves and the drug cartels who also charge money to cross the border.

That report is more than three years old but could have been written yesterday. Or along the banks of the Rio Grande on Monday.

Because its objective is not to deter illegal entrants, the Biden administration essentially countenances such deadly entries, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it a willing accomplice in the smugglers’ schemes.

That’s real inhumanity, not a 30-hour bus ride to New York City. Biden could slash the border death rate tomorrow by detaining migrants and prosecuting single adult migrants. That would dissuade other illegal entrants who are coming here to live and work indefinitely, goals his administration is currently helping them to achieve. But he won’t, because under the administration’s twisted definition, that would be “inhumane”.