The Human Cost of Open-ish Borders

By Mark Krikorian on March 3, 2021

National Review, March 3, 2021

A horrific crash happened Tuesday in southern California when an SUV pulled out in front of a truck and got T-boned. Crashes happen every day, of course. What makes this one especially notable is that 25 people were in the SUVtwenty-five people in a Ford Expedition, adults and children, 13 of whom were killed. Most of the dead were Mexicans. The driver was, in all likelihood, smuggling illegal aliens who had infiltrated the border about 15 miles to the south, though it’s under investigation.

Not everything is someone’s fault, but this is. Biden’s semi-open-borders policy is enticing migrants to infiltrate the borders while keeping some border enforcement in place. The inevitable result is tragedies like this.

Alien smuggling is a nasty business. Doctors Without Borders reports that two-thirds of migrants coming up through Mexico become victims of violence, including one-third of women who are sexually assaulted. Once across the border, illegal immigrants are often confined to stash houses while smugglers seek to extort more money from their relatives. And, of course, aliens die in crashes as smugglers try to elude capture.

There are two honorable responses to the terrible consequences of immigrant smuggling. One, favored by the hard left and post-national libertarians, is to permit unlimited immigration. That way, anyone who wants to come can do so, and there would be little need for clandestine traffic.

Plausible as that might seem during an undergraduate bull session, it’s a terrible idea and will not — cannot — happen so long as nations exist, especially nations whose citizens have any kind of voice in their government.

The other option is tight enforcement. Devote the maximum practical effort to tightening the border, ensure that living here illegally will be difficult, and in general make it clear that illegal immigrants are not welcome. Although its efforts left much room for improvement, this is what the Trump administration attempted, with considerable success. The result was a dramatic decrease in border-jumping and its attendant ills.

The dishonorable alternative to opening the border, or enforcing it, is what the Biden administration is doing. Animated by anti-border and unlimited-immigration impulses, but constrained by well-founded fears of backlash, the White House has chosen open-ish borders, effectively inviting foreigners to sneak into our country while maintaining some border enforcement for political cover.

For instance, Trump’s public-health emergency order allowing the Border Patrol to expel any captured alien without any fuss or bother has been kept in place, but an exception has been added for “unaccompanied” minors. The result has been that parents with relatives in the U.S. have started sending their kids over the border to turn themselves, where they’re held (in shipping containers, not cages!) and then delivered at taxpayer expense to those relatives, with the parents hoping to join them later.

Another example: Responding to congressional inaction to plug the loopholes drawing huge numbers of bogus asylum claims, the Trump administration instituted the Remain in Mexico program (formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols), whereby Central American “asylum-seekers” were sent back across the border to await their U.S. immigration hearings in Mexico. This all but eliminated the incentive to make a bogus asylum claim as a means of gaining release into the U.S. The program dissuaded thousands from coming and convinced thousands who had made such claims to give up and return home rather than wait in Mexico. But thousands of others stuck around, hoping for a Democratic victory in November. Their bet paid off, sort of; Biden has ended the program for new asylum applicants, but is only admitting those on the Remain in Mexico waiting lists a few at a time, leading some to sneak across.

Or take the Biden-Menendez immigration bill (please). The proposed amnesty would not be limited to long-resident illegal aliens but rather be given to anyone who could show they were here as of January 1 of this year. Faking the documentation to demonstrate, say, four years of residence in the U.S. is certainly possible, but it wouldn’t be easy for people of modest means. But how much of a paper trail would you need to concoct to show that you arrived a few months ago? Again, another incentive to sneak across and take your chances.

The Biden administration is telling prospective illegal aliens “now is not the time to come”, but those who do come are being released into the U.S. with a piece of paper and a wave goodbye. What did the White House think would happen?

Even with strict enforcement, some people will take foolish risks to immigrate illegally. If we’ve done our best to dissuade people from infiltrating our border, then the tragedies that befall those who don’t heed the message are their responsibility alone. But the Biden administration is broadcasting an open border without fully delivering one, making it culpable for tragedies like we saw yesterday in California. More will follow.