The Daily Caller reported this week that the White House “drastically simplified the vetting process for Chinese illegal immigrants in April 2023”, with CBP being directed to “radically reduce the number of interview questions for Chinese migrants apprehended after illegally crossing into the country from roughly 40 to just five”. If true — and there’s no reason to believe it’s not — it’s shocking, but it’s just par for the course in the dangerous game the Biden administration is playing with our national security in its mass releases of migrants at the Southwest border.
CBP Vetting. If you’ve ever traveled internationally and returned to the United States, you’ve experienced CBP vetting up close. As the officer at the kiosk at the international arrivals gate or on the border itself is scanning your passport and asking how your trip was, checks are being run on any wants or warrants you may have in this country, and the officer is gauging your demeanor to see if you’re up to something.
The same is especially true for aliens coming to the United States on nonimmigrant visas. Their travel histories to the United States are being checked as officers ask them how long they are planning to visit for and where they will be travelling and staying.
That scrutiny is — or should be — heightened in the case of aliens arriving illegally. As the Daily Caller article indicates, there is an entire script that Border Patrol agents and CBP officers follow as those individuals are inspected, which usually ends with a question along the lines of “Is there any reason that you would not want to return home?”
Chinese Migrant Surge. In all of FY 2019, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended 2,060 illegal entrants from the People’s Republic of China, a figure that dropped to 1,236 as the world went into a travel lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Curiously enough, that figure actually fell to 323 in FY 2021, before rising again to 1,970 in FY 2022.
But in FY 2023, the number of Chinese nationals who somehow made their way to northern Mexico and crossed illegally into the United States surged to more than 24,000. That flood has continued unabated into FY 2024, with more than 9,000 Chinese apprehensions at the Southwest border in October and November alone.
Of course, those latest arrivals could have simply prescheduled their illegal arrivals at Southwest border ports using the CBP One app, under a Biden administration innovation I have termed the “CBP One app interview scheme” that the White House launched last January.
Relatively few do, however, as just 310 Chinese applicants were encountered at the Southwest border ports between the beginning of October 2022 and the end of November.
Regardless, it’s not a cheap trip. Border Patrol’s San Diego sector has been the destination of choice for illegal Chinese migrants of late (agents apprehended more than 8,900 of them there in the last two months), and the local NBC outlet has reported that “prices of smuggling Chinese migrants have skyrocketed, with average payments ranging from $40,000 to $60,000”. That’s a pricey sum compared to the $6,000 to $10,000 smugglers are charging what the station terms “Latinos”.
Chinese Asylum Claims. Why are so many Chinese nationals entering illegally now? Plainly, the Biden administration’s non-detention policies are playing a major role in this surge, but in addition, most of those aliens can be reasonably sure that once they get in, they’ll be here for a while, if not forever.
DOJ statistics show that immigration judges granted 55 percent of the asylum applications filed by Chinese nationals they adjudicated in FY 2023. By contrast, just 5 percent of Cuban asylum applications were granted last fiscal year, as were a mere 4 percent of the ones filed by Haitian and Mexican nationals.
Chinese asylum applications are notoriously difficult to adjudicate, for a few reasons. First, there is actual repression of certain individuals — notably political opponents and members of religious and ethnic minorities — as the latest State Department country conditions report for China shows.
Second, fake documents are easy to come by there, or at least they were 16 years ago when the State Department issued its May 2007 report, “China Profile of Asylum Claims and Country Conditions”. As that document explained, “Documentation from China, particularly from Fujian Province, is subject to widespread fabrication and fraud.”
You may be wondering why I’m referencing a document issued under the second George W. Bush administration, and that brings me to the third difficulty adjudicators face in adjudicating Chinese asylum claims: The fact the State Department hasn’t issued such asylum-specific reports in the interim.
They were invaluable to immigration judges (as I was at the time) in adjudicating Chinese asylum claims, but for some reason the State Department stopped issuing those reports around the time Barack Obama became president and has failed to produce one since.
Unless a judge has actually lived in a foreign country for some period of time (which is a rarity), the only thing that judge will know about a country is what is in the record. The State Department has staff all over China, and that staff could bring its collective experience and knowledge to bear in evaluating claims from that country. But if there’s no report, that experience and knowledge is lost.
“Watered Down Vetting”. Which brings me back to the Daily Caller article.
It’s no secret that the ruling Chinese Communist Party has positions at odds with the best interests of the United States. In a July 2020 speech captioned “The Threat Posed by the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party to the Economic and National Security of the United States”, FBI Director Christopher Wray explained:
The greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality, is the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China. It’s a threat to our economic security — and by extension, to our national security.
To understand this threat and how we must act to respond to it, the American people should remember three things.
First: We need to be clear-eyed about the scope of the Chinese government’s ambition. China — the Chinese Communist Party — believes it is in a generational fight to surpass our country in economic and technological leadership.
The second thing the American people need to understand is that China uses a diverse range of sophisticated techniques — everything from cyber intrusions to corrupting trusted insiders.
Understanding how a nation could engage in these tactics brings me to the third thing the American people need to remember: that China has a fundamentally different system than ours — and it’s doing all it can to exploit the openness of ours while taking advantage of its own closed system. [Emphasis added.]
Apparently, no one in DHS leadership has remembered that “third thing”, at least if the Daily Caller is correct. It reports that: “The new guidance directs agents to ask five ‘basic questions’ concerning ‘Military Service,’ ‘Universities,’ ‘POB/Region,’ ‘Employment’ and ‘Political Party’”.
Plainly, if a hostile government wanted to infiltrate its agents into this country, it would tell them exactly how to respond to each of those queries. More prosaically, however, a smuggler getting paid a high five-figure smuggling fee would provide the same service.
The outlet cites a former CBP deputy patrol agent in charge who concluded that, “This scaling back of the interview process fast-tracked the releasing of Chinese illegal immigrants into the U.S. while making it more difficult for CBP agents to identify national security threats.”
Those two points — that this boiled-down questioning simply makes it easier for the Chinese government to “exploit” our “openness”, and that the only reason why the administration would implement such a policy is to push those migrants out of CBP custody as quickly as possible — is self-evident.
The only real question is why, in the face of such a patent and obvious threat from China, President Biden has adopted such a prodedure. Respectfully, however, it’s par for the course from this administration.
“It Is Implausible” In September 2021, the state of Florida filed a complaint challenging the Biden administration’s border-release policies, in a case captioned Florida v. U.S.
Nearly 18 months later, and after considering reams of evidence and hours of testimony, the judge in Florida, T. Kent Wetherell II of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, issued an opinion in which he barred DHS from releasing illegal migrants under a policy called “Parole+ATD”.
Aliens released on Parole+ATD plainly weren’t detained (as the law requires), nor were they issued Notices to Appear (“NTAs”), the charging documents in removal proceedings. Instead, they were simply cut loose in the expectation they’d report to ICE at some point to be placed into removal proceedings.
Judge Wetherell explained why Parole+ATD had become the department’s border release policy of choice: it allowed CBP to move migrants out of custody quickly, the same reason why DHS has apparently watered down the vetting of Chinese migrants.
Parole+ATD could be completed in “15 to 30 minutes”, he found, whereas “the ‘processing time’ for issuing a NTA is between 2 to 2.5 hours”. The problem, as the court concluded, is that: “It is implausible that USBP [U.S. Border Patrol] could meaningfully assess an alien’s individual circumstances in 15 to 30 minutes.”
Judge Wetherell made that finding in determining that Parole+ATD failed to comport with the “case-by-case” analysis required by the parole statute, but the same conclusion is equally true when it comes to screening illegal migrants to determine whether they pose law-enforcement or national-security risks.
Again, Judge Wetherell shut down Parole+ATD (and stopped a similar program a couple of months later), but given the sheer volume of migrants CBP is encountering — about 10,000 per day in December according to reports — there’s no way agents can screen them to determine whether they pose a threat.
That’s true of the aforementioned CBP One app interview scheme, as well.
In November, CBP crowed that it had processed more than 43,000 illegal migrants at the ports under that scheme, more than 1,430 per day. That process is supposed to only be available for aliens coming “to initiate a protection claim” but given that volume it’s doubtful whether CBP officers can even identify those aliens, let alone whether they have valid “protection claims” or not.
The Daily Caller suggests the administration is playing a risky game in its vetting of illegal Chinese migrants. But when you consider the burdens Joe Biden’s “catch-and-release” policies have been placing on CBP for the past three years, that’s just par for a very dangerous course, with dire implications for our national security.