We are still in the first four months of the Biden administration, and it is making clever and detailed immigration policy moves, much as the the Trump administration tried to do in its last four months. The Biden actions are not commendable, but they are skillful and early-on.
This is largely because Biden believes in government and believes in fully staffing it with his own people, as the Trump administration did not, at least initially. The new administration has a ready pool of immigration policy types largely left over from the Obama years, and/or recruited from non-governmental organizations that advocate for looser border controls.
I call many of these moves “policy masks” because they are clever ways of stopping conversations about policy matters by hiding what is going on. Here are some examples:
My favorite policy mask, which my colleague Todd Bensman mentioned to me recently, deals with the matter of “got-aways”. This is a Border Patrol term for illegal aliens who have been sighted but not captured, and for those who leave evidence of a successful breach of our borders but who have not been apprehended.
A got-away is, by definition, a governmental failure. In the past, when one or more were noted, there was a simple way of adding to the list. Now, one has to write a formal written report and get it approved by a supervisor. Needless to say, this causes all but the most dedicated agents to spend their time on more pressing matters. And thus the got-away reports, were they to be leaked to the press, would not show the increases that are clearly happening.
Bensman also reported earlier this month that DHS withdrew a press release about capturing two Yemeni terror suspects at the southern border, evidently in an attempt to eliminate a discussion of our vulnerability to jihadist infiltration by that route.
Another mask of reality is taking place in the H-1B program. For years, the number of applications for the program (enhanced by unrealistic requests from many companies seeking to outwit the numerical limits set by Congress) were published right after the April 1 deadline. For example, in 2020 there were 275,000 applications for the 85,000 congressionally authorized slots and this was announced by the Department of Homeland Security. No such numbers have been revealed this year, and we hear that none will be. Hence, no number and no awkward conversations about this controversial program.
Yet another mask has been placed on the numbers of inbound legal border-crossers; this is DHS data produced by the Department of Transportation, and could be used to show, as we have done from time to time, that DHS is keeping open ports-of-entry on the northern border when the traffic has fallen sharply and unit costs of each inspection have soared. We found, for example, eight ports that were seeing no pedestrians, no bus or rail passengers, and fewer than two automobiles a day.
Many of the officers at these all-but-abandoned ports of entry should be helping their beleaguered colleagues at the southern border.
This data was reported on a monthly basis during the Trump years, and the trends are probably continuing, but as of this writing the Biden administration has yet to show these data after December of last year. How can policies be criticized if there are no numbers reported?
Similarly, previously published data on the numbers of alien alumni working in the government-subsidized Optional Practical Training program is no longer reported by DHS. In the past, one could read about the 100-largest employers of these workers, or the 100 universities that produced the largest numbers of them, but no more, as my colleague Jon Feere noted the other day.
To be fair, neither this nor the previous administration reported that the OPT program quietly undercuts the Social Security and Medicare trust funds by denying them billions a year, as all the employers and many of the alien workers are excused from paying the normal payroll taxes that support these funds, and thus America’s aging and frail.
The Biden administration owes it to the American people to tell us what it is doing.