National Review, May 26, 2021
Two years ago, during an earlier phase of the ongoing border crisis, AOC said “The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border.”
And today? Crickets.
Congressional Democrats’ hypocrisy on the treatment of “unaccompanied” illegal-alien minors has become glaring enough that friendly media outlets feel they have to offer an explanation. The New York Times this week provided a platform for Democratic representatives to explain why they haven’t engaged in the kind of performative outrage at the living conditions of detained minors that greeted the exact same problem under Trump. Instead, the article notes, they are “voicing worries privately to administration officials.”
As you might expect, the excuses boil down to Orange Man Bad. For instance, El Paso’s Democratic congresswoman, Veronica Escobar, said of the Biden administration “They have a solid vision and a heart of gold, and they seem to want to do the right thing, which is different from what I experienced during the Trump administration.” Representative Joaquin Castro from San Antonio also commented on the Biden crowd’s internal organs: “The difference is you have an administration who wants to solve a lot of these challenges, and their heart is in a much better place.”
This goes beyond the usual double standard you’d expect from partisans of any stripe. The warehousing of smuggled (“unaccompanied”) children and teenagers in Border Patrol facilities under Trump was initially due to the surge of arrivals, but continued because congressional Democrats specifically chose for it to continue.
The situation was, and is, this: According to a 2008 law, ostensibly unaccompanied minors apprehended by the Border Patrol are supposed to be quickly transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which in turn holds them until their parents or other relatives (who paid to have them smuggled in the first place) can be located. But if HHS doesn’t have sufficient shelter capacity, the kids can’t just be turned loose on the streets so they back up in Border Patrol “cages” (an image the Biden people avoided this time simply by erecting cellophane pods in the Border Patrol stations instead of using chain-link dividers).
When the Trump administration reshuffled funds in the Department of Health and Human Services budget to open more shelters, it faced, in Politico‘s words, “withering criticism in 2018 for transferring hundreds of millions of dollars meant for biomedical research, HIV/AIDS services and other purposes.” When the Trump administration then sought a supplemental appropriation in 2019 to expand HHS shelter capacity, House Democrats, newly in the majority, waited seven weeks to act on it — seven weeks of hysterical outrage, including AOC’s “concentration camps” piffle, indulged purely for political purposes, while the supposed objects of Democrats’ concern remained stuck in inadequate Border Patrol holding facilities.
Biden’s own reallocation of HHS funds for shelters has passed with little comment from Democrats, even though the money to house illegal-alien minors has been drawn from funds “Congress originally allocated to rebuild the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile, the emergency medical reserve strained by the Covid-19 response” and “from a pot intended to help expand coronavirus testing.” It’s not like we’ll need any of that!
As “balance,” the Times quoted two Republican statements from months ago (accompanied by the obligatory “Republicans pounce” qualification: “Even those who held their tongues as children were separated from their parents or hustled into cage-like enclosures during the Trump years have taken advantage.”) But too many Republicans have been complaining about the wrong thing. Yes, the Democrats are hypocrites about the humanitarian fallout of a border surge. But the conditions in which minors are being held under Biden (or previously under Trump) is not the actual problem. The problem is a mass surge of illegal immigration, and the inadequacies in detention (“sleeping in ‘bunk cots'” and “lacking enough options for recreation,” among other outrages reported in the Times story) are merely symptoms.
And Democrats are not only “quiet” about this massive, systematic, and routinized violation of America’s borders, they have caused it and are facilitating it. My colleague Todd Bensman, a veteran foreign correspondent and intelligence analyst, visited the South Texas border recently and reported on what the legacy media have ignored. “In all my years of working on the border,” Bensman writes, “I had never witnessed anything like what I would see at just one of hundreds of openly established raft crossing points along the south Texas border.” He describes raft after raft after raft crossing the river, like a D-Day landing, in full view of Border Patrol agents, National Guardsmen, and officers of the Texas Department of Public Safety, who have been turned, by Biden administration policy, into Walmart greeters for illegal aliens. The agents direct newly arrived illegal aliens to makeshift processing stations, where agents “would take their personal information and shoot photos, then put them in another queue for when the time came to load up the buses.”
What Bensman describes is “normalized, industrial-scale illegal migration.” That is the emergency we face at the border — the rest is commentary.