It could be argued that, taken one at a time, the Biden Administration’s policy directives regarding immigration are worthy of thoughtful debate. But taken as a whole, and being either already executed or under serious consideration so early in the president’s first term, the mosaic clearly shows that he is standing down the execution of federal immigration laws. And the worst crisis in 20 years—by his own Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s admission—is likely to reach a truly unprecedented level.
Let’s take a look at how we got here.
On his first half day in office, President Biden’s DHS terminated enrollment in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). Otherwise known as “Remain in Mexico,” this program provided that migrants who had entered the US—“illegally or without proper documentation”—from Mexico would be returned there while their claims for asylum were processed.
This program alone greatly diminished the draw of people to illegally enter the U.S. when they learned that they would not be released into the interior of the U.S. after initially making their claim. After all, the vast majority of claims are made simply to obtain such release into the U.S. so that migrants could reach the safety and prosperity our country offers.
With the termination of the MPP, migrants can now return to the practice of illegally entering the U.S. and, if caught, they can make a (most likely spurious) claim for asylum, with the confidence they will be released into the interior of the U.S. and be given a shot at the American Dream. At the time of their release, those migrants will be given a Notice To Appear (NTA) before an Immigration Judge to hear the final determination on their claim, but we’ll elaborate on that later.
Not only did the Biden DHS stop new enrollments into the MPP program, they’re in the process of transitioning those enrolled during the Trump Administration and temporarily residing in Mexico back to the U.S. for continued processing and release into the interior of the country.
Nearly simultaneous with the termination of new enrollments into the MPP, Biden’s DHS placed a “100-day pause” on most deportations. When the Attorney General of Texas filed suit claiming he and his fellow Texans would be understandably harmed by such an (in)action, a federal judge indefinitely blocked the president from not doing his job to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” But as has been noted by other observers, the judge simply said that the Biden Administration could not stop the deportation process. He didn’t say how quickly the president should faithfully do his job.
One way to bring the deportation of illegal aliens to a crawl would be to re-assign personnel whose job is just that, to another role. This was no doubt the motivation for a recent call between DHS leadership and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. The call included discussion of potential plans to move deportation officers to criminal investigators. According to one report, the transition would be similar to “a city police department converting its beat cops to detectives, leaving nobody to patrol the streets for basic crimes.” Such a transition of personnel would not only slow the deportation process, it would likewise affect the arrest of many in the U.S. illegally. This would drastically slow much of the execution of immigration law at both the front end and the back end.
Finally, as the numbers of migrants entering the US’s southwest border has overwhelmed our ability to respond, the most hard hit sector—Texas’s Rio Grande Valley (RGV) sector—has recently discontinued the issuance of Notices to Appear to asylum claimants in order to more quickly “process” migrants—especially minors—who have flooded the sector recently. Recall that these Notices To Appear are issued to migrants apprehended at the border who have made a claim for asylum in the U.S. The worst kept secret in this entire scheme is that, once out of sight of government officials, the notice is disposed of and the migrant is effectively free to wander the fruited plains of the U.S. This most recent change in asylum processing dispenses of the façade for the pressing purpose of moving migrants—especially migrant children—out of severely overcrowded detention facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To be fair to the unconscionably overworked defenders of our southwest border, we must remember that the Biden administration has added to Border Patrol’s concerns at these facilities by removing the public health bar of many new minor child entries into the U.S. during the pandemic. And we know what will happen when news of these developments reaches would-be migrants, through the smuggling industry that exploits them.
These changes to the execution of immigration laws in the first two months of Biden’s first term are stressing the southwest border in a way that can only result in greater chaos as the winter turns to spring. The administration is standing down—and Americans (as well as migrants themselves) will suffer for it.