Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing this week that "there's only so much border security you can accomplish"— not "we're going to try harder", not "we have a plan and a strategy that we'll be rolling out", nothing.
It was a surprisingly lackadaisical expression of disinterest from the man charged with securing the nation's borders. Could it be that the Obama administration, nearing the end of its second term, doesn't even have the energy left to continue trying to perpetuate the myth that it is tough on protecting our frontiers from illegal intruders?
Johnson was addressing the fact that the dramatic rise in the numbers of unaccompanied minors and at least partial family units that began in 2014 not only hasn't slowed down, but is on pace to exceed the previous surge numbers that disturbed so many Americans — something the administration has excelled in keeping from the public eye by a number of means, including intimidation of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to discourage them speaking out, as well as increased sophistication in the way it rapidly disperses the illegal crossers away from border areas and into the interior, often without being served notices to appear before immigration judges in removal proceedings.
This latter issue has become a flash point for critics, who note the high rate of aliens failing to show for their hearings; see here and here. Problem solved! No hearing dates, no absconders. Thus does DHS work its statistical magic where border enforcement is concerned.
As to the legitimacy of the department's efforts at containing what is no longer a "surge", but rather a permanent bulge of arriving aliens: Morale is so poor among the employees of DHS agencies, specifically including agents at the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, that they rank statistically at the bottom of yearly federal government measures for satisfaction in the federal workforce. This, in turn, has resulted in an inability to adequately recruit new hires, as seasoned agents bail out for other jobs where they can actually accomplish their mission. How has DHS approached this fundamental failure? Why, cut the workforce through attrition and submission of budgets requesting fewer authorized positions! Again, problem solved.
Johnson mentions that the problem must also be dealt with at the source nations. How has the administration handled that? Equally ineffectually:
- They have permitted Central American nations to establish a transnational "official" route for smuggled Cubans to cross all of Central America and Mexico to the United States, where they are waved through by CPB inspectors at ports of entry instead of being challenged for lacking any statutory right to enter. (See here, here, and here.)
- Instead of using expedited removal proceedings against the individuals who have arrived by the tens of thousands, they have instead moved them into interior locations where they are laundered for a time through government-funded facilities and then out into their new communities, often with work permits to which they are not entitled. This most certainly acts as a draw to others in Central America who don't listen to the tough words but instead watch to see what really happens to their compatriots.
- And, finally, they have spent untold amounts of money supporting a patently illegal "Central American Minors" (CAM) program in Honduras and elsewhere, on the theory that this in-country program permits separating the true refugees from economic migrants. That program is both a failure and a lie, because it handles not only minors, but entire family units, and when individuals don't qualify as refugees, many of them are nonetheless paroled into the United States. For that reason, intended migrants from Honduras and elsewhere understandably don't buy the legal distinctions of such niceties, when they conflict with what they recognize as the realities of official American tolerance.
As the administration's second term winds down, there will soon be a lot of high-powered out-of-work cabinet members, including Secretary Johnson. I'm thinking he should be submitting his resume to the European Union now — the ineffectual handling of their own ongoing migrant crisis suggests they, too, might have use for a man of such little talent or imagination.