VOA: Mayorkas ‘Warns Borders Being Rendered Meaningless’

Headline reveals disconnect between DHS’s concerns and Biden’s border policies

By Andrew R. Arthur on December 12, 2022

Voice of America (VOA) recently published an article captioned: “US Homeland Security Chief Warns Borders Being Rendered Meaningless”, referring to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. For those aware of the administration’s feckless border policies, the headline may be unintentionally funny, but the contents reveal a serious disconnect between the secretary’s concerns and the president’s policies at the U.S.-Mexico line.

Rapid Disintegration in Border Security Under Biden. Joe Biden was the fortuitous beneficiary of what his first Border Patrol chief, Rodney Scott, described in September 2021 as “arguably the most effective border security in” U.S. history. The chief asserted, however, that this security rapidly disintegrated as “border security recommendations from experienced career professionals” were “ignored and stymied by inexperienced political employees”.

It’s not clear whether Scott was targeting Mayorkas, the top political appointee at DHS, directly, as few would describe the secretary as “inexperienced”. Rather, he was deputy secretary at DHS from 2013 to 2016, before which he served as head of USCIS between 2009 and 2013.

At DHS, Mayorkas oversaw some of the lowest levels of apprehensions at the Southwest border in decades. In fact, he was in the job in FY 2014, when the Obama administration moved to curb a surge in migrant adults entering illegally with children in “family units” (FMUs) by expanding FMU detention so effectively that DHS faced lawsuits by the plaintiffs in the Flores settlement agreement and others.

To be honest, it’s unclear who in the Biden administration is calling the shots on border policy (there have been reports of battles in the White House over the issue), but the results have been dreadful.

Agents at the Southwest border set a new yearly record for apprehensions in FY 2021 (when nearly 1.66 million illegal entrants were caught, most in the months following the inauguration), a record they blew past in FY 2022, when agents made more than 2.2 million apprehensions.

Even those baleful statistics fail to tell the whole story, because agents were so busy processing and caring for (and often releasing) tens of thousands of illegal entrants monthly that their ability to secure the border rapidly diminished.

An estimated 389,000 “got-aways” — migrants who entered illegally with no intention of being caught — successfully evaded overwhelmed agents and entered the United States at the Southwest border in FY 2021, a figure that rose to nearly 600,000 in FY 2022.

Fox News reports that the problem has only gotten worse in FY 2023, with 137,000 got-aways in just the first two months of the new fiscal year, including a record number (73,000-plus) in November alone.

Biden’s to Blame. As Scott suggested, the president is to blame for the rapid disintegration in border security since he took office.

Biden assailed Trump’s border policies as “a moral failing and a national shame” on the 2020 campaign trail.

Between his electoral victory and taking office, however, Biden appeared to backtrack, still promising to reverse Trump’s policies, but only “at a slower pace than he initially promised, to avoid winding up with ‘2 million people on our border’” and only after erecting “guardrails” to prevent a border surge.

That rang hollow after he entered the Oval Office, though, as Biden quickly ditched his predecessor’s successful border policies while doing nothing to deter foreign nationals from entering illegally. That was no accident, as Mayorkas revealed last spring.

“Safe, Orderly, and Legal” — Isn’t. When host Bret Baier asked the secretary on the May 1 edition of Fox News Sunday whether the administration’s objective was to sharply reduce the total number of illegal immigrants coming across the border, Mayorkas responded: “It is the objective of the Biden administration to make sure that we have safe, orderly, and legal pathways for individuals to be able to access our legal system.”

That may confuse the uninitiated — what’s “safe, orderly, or legal” about millions of migrants illegally pouring over the Southwest border?

To translate, Mayorkas means that instead of a plan to deter illegal entrants — the primary border policy of every prior administration (including Obama-Biden) — the current one wants to ensure that every alien who makes it to this country can apply for asylum, regardless of the strength of their claims, or even whether they come seeking asylum.

Why would Biden adopt such a policy? As my colleague Mark Krikorian recently explained:

[T]he deeper reason this administration, from the president on down, doesn’t think what’s happening at the border is important is that they believe immigration controls are morally wrong — period. They believe that the American people simply have no right to keep anyone out. And if the immigration law requires them to do that — as it obviously does — they’ll do their best to circumvent and ignore the law.

In other words, the Biden administration sees the Immigration and Nationality Act [INA] as the equivalent of Jim Crow, and undermining it is the heroic equivalent of escorting black students into desegregated schools.

Not only does this plan contravene the INA, but it has two other, exceptionally deleterious effects. First, it can take years to adjudicate asylum claims — particularly now that Biden is giving asylum claimants even more appeal rights — time those aliens can live and work here, building up equities and making it all but impossible for DHS to remove them when the vast majority of those claims are denied.

Second, as more illegal migrants are ushered into the United States under this policy (Biden has released more than 1.5 million border entrants by my estimates, not counting got-aways), it encourages greater numbers of foreign nationals to leave home and enter illegally to live and work in the United States, where wages are better and the standard of living is higher across the board.

“Borders Being Rendered Meaningless”. Which brings me to VOA’s report on Mayorkas’ statements to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. The headline, alluding to “borders being rendered meaningless” was not a direct quote, but rather a summation of the secretary’s CSIS address.

Mayorkas focused on two foreign adversaries, Russia and China, as being the biggest threats, the former through cyberattacks, and the latter “leveraging its instruments of national power to undermine the security of our critical infrastructure, to gain access to our technology and data to assault human rights and undercut American workers and businesses”.

His assessment of the dangers posed by those two nations is undeniably true (VOA noted dryly “Neither Russia nor China responded immediately to requests for comment”), but Mayorkas’ statements took an interesting turn when he discussed more prosaic criminal and terrorist threats.

The secretary contended that DHS agencies are “waging the fight against transnational criminal organizations [TCOs] on an unprecedented scale”, while asserting that “What we are experiencing at the border today is unique because of the fact that what we are experiencing is not something exclusive to our southern border.”

Mayorkas’ statements ignore or elide the fact that Biden’s border policies are pumping money into the pockets of those TCOs, including cartels south of the border, allowing them to expand their operations.

As the New York Times reported in July: “Migrant smuggling on the U.S. southern border has evolved over the past 10 years from a scattered network of freelance ‘coyotes’ into a multi-billion-dollar international business controlled by organized crime, including some of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels.”

More specifically, the New York Post revealed that criminal cartels were making $14 million per day trafficking migrants to the Southwest border in February 2021, a figure that has plainly risen as the number of illegal entrants has soared in the interim.

And that does not even count the drug profits TCOs are reaping by manipulating the open border Biden has created to move more lethal product. Scott explained:

[I]llegal entries are being scripted and controlled by Plaza Bosses that work directly for the [TCOs] to create controllable gaps in border security. These gaps are then exploited to easily smuggle contraband, criminals, or even potential terrorists into the U.S. at will. Even when [Border Patrol] detects the illegal entry, agents are spread so thin that they often lack the capability to make a timely interdiction.

Hold that “potential terrorists” point.

“Migration Unprecedented in Scope from Around the World”. Mayorkas is like a surgeon who, having botched an operation, is confused that the patient’s vital signs are deteriorating. Which brings me back to his assertions that “what we are experiencing is not something exclusive to our southern border”.

According to the secretary, “We are seeing migration that is unprecedented in scope ... around the world.” While there may be some truth in that statement, Mayorkas fails to appreciate how much of that global movement is being driven by the policies that he and this administration have implemented.

Until recently, nearly all illegal entrants were Mexican nationals, mostly single adult males. In FY 2000, for example, more than 97 percent of all Border Patrol apprehensions were Mexicans.

Beginning in FY 2014, however, the number of “other than Mexican” (OTM) migrants apprehended at that border surpassed Mexicans (47.3 percent of the total), as illegal migration from the “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras surged. By FY 2019, nationals of the three Northern Triangle countries made up more than 71 percent of all Southwest border apprehensions.

FY 2021 saw a new and disturbing trend, as illegal migrants who were not only OTMs, but who also weren’t from the Northern Triangle (ONTs), rose. Agents apprehended more than 367,000 OTM/ONTs at the Southwest border that fiscal year, 22 percent of total Southwest border apprehensions.

That percentage of OTM/ONTs nearly doubled in FY 2022 even as illegal entries soared. Almost 43 percent of the 2.2 million-plus illegal entrants caught at the Southwest border last fiscal year (more than 947,000 individuals) were OTM/ONTs, coming from as far afield as Egypt, Burkina Faso, and Nepal.

In short, Biden’s policies are helping to drive — if not directly driving — the global migrant surge Mayorkas decries. By creating a magnet for migrants worldwide to the United States, Biden is helping erect the smuggling networks that move foreign nationals to other countries, as well.

The Terrorist Threat. Finally, according to VOA, Mayorkas “called for more sophisticated passenger screening for airplanes, citing ever more dynamic and complex threat[s] from foreign and domestic terrorist groups”.

It’s unclear what concerns the secretary has about “domestic terrorist groups” and air travel, but September 11 has seared into the memories of all who lived through it how terrorists have weaponized planes to attack America and its institutions.

Having spent more than two decades dealing with foreign terrorist groups, I agree that the threat is ever dynamic and complex, which is why DHS (created largely in response to September 11) must be nimble and reasonable in its response.

However, the open border that Biden’s policies have created is our biggest terrorist vulnerability, in my opinion and in the opinion of many national security experts with whom I have spoken of late. Simply put, Mayorkas’ DHS is operating as if September 11 was a one-time blip or never occurred at all.

Look at the numbers: Agents at the Southwest border apprehended 98 aliens on the terrorist watchlist in FY 2022 (nearly three times as many as the prior five fiscal years combined) and caught nine more in the first two months of FY 2023.

Those are the ones who got caught. How many other watchlist terrorists were among the more than one million got-aways since FY 2020 who weren’t caught? Scott makes clear TCOs are willing to help terrorists get through successfully, and that Biden’s policies are making is possible for them to do so.

Biden — and his immigration advisors — are either foolishly hopeful or wildly deluded if they believe the foreign terrorists that Mayorkas wants to keep off of airliners are all entering legally but fraudulently, as they largely (but not exclusively) have in the past. Terrorists are the definition of “opportunistic”, and the best opportunity to enter undetected now to harm America is at the Southwest border.

We know that terrorists — including one of the biggest terrorist masterminds, Ramzi Yousef — have exploited our asylum policies in the past, while subway bomber Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer both entered illegally and exploited our humanitarian instincts.

I don’t want to have to appear (as I have in the past) before the next panel convened to figure out how the next terrorist attack occurred. Biden and Mayorkas need to get the border under control now.

“More Important Things”. Biden recently visited Arizona but skipped going to the border because “There are more important things going on” — a misguided contention if there ever was one.

Mayorkas identified many real concerns in his CSIS address, but like his boss, he has failed to appreciate that many of those concerns are directly linked to the border and exacerbated by Biden’s policies. “More sophisticated passenger screening for airplanes” is fine, but I simply ask that the secretary apply the same level of concern to our nation’s backdoor that he does to the ticket gate.

Borders aren’t “meaningless” — they are the nation’s first and most important line of defense, and securing those borders is a big part of why DHS exists. That department’s security should recognize those facts before it’s too late.