Although the Biden administration is attempting to deny and shift blame for the border crisis, its actions speak louder than words. A week ago, it had to send the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the southern border to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection bring illegal immigrants into the United States.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wasted little time blaming former U.S. President Trump for passing a broken immigration system to the current administration. However, it is President Biden’s immigration policies as well as Democrats’ ill-conceived immigration proposals that are responsible for today’s border crisis.
Even when he was a presidential candidate, Biden promised the United States would accept all asylum seekers, although U.S. asylum has been studded with fraud and abuse for a long time. As soon as he was sworn into office, President Biden signed three executive orders to undo the previous administration’s strong immigration law enforcement.
De Facto Open Borders from Day One
One such policy was the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” protocol, which made asylum seekers wait in Mexico for U.S. immigration courts to hear their asylum petitions. One of Biden’s executive orders ended this Trump policy, and the United States has admitted asylum seekers into the country since then, regardless of their petitions’ credibility.
These asylum seekers can start working in the United States immediately while waiting for their court hearings. Due to backlogs in U.S. immigration courts, sometimes the wait is longer than a decade. Since many of the asylum seekers are actually economic migrants, the long wait doesn’t bother them because it helps them achieve their goal of working in the United States.
Many asylum seekers don’t ever bother to show up at their immigration hearings. This problem has been around for a long time and the Trump policy, imperfect as it was, was the first serious attempt to address it.
The Biden administration also rolled back border security measures such as stopping the construction of border walls and subjecting ICE to stricter oversight and narrower immigration law enforcement. ICE expects immigration-related arrests and deportations will decline sharply under the Biden administration’s new rule.
Democrats to World: Take Advantage Of Americans
Last month, House Democrats added fuel to the fire by introducing a far-reaching immigration bill dubbed the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The bill is largely based on immigration proposals Biden campaigned on, including offering amnesty to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in this country by creating an express route to citizenship for them while investing little in measures to strengthen border security.
Migrants have responded to the Biden administration’s immigration policies and rhetoric, and the Democrats’ amnesty bill, as an open invitation. They believe now it is the time to come to the United States, however they can.
The U.S. Border Patrol agents reportedly apprehended close to 100,000 migrants who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last month, about 30 percent more than that in January. Almost half of these illegal border-crossers came from Mexico, and about 12 percent came from countries outside of Central America (some came as far as East Asia and the Middle East).
Approximately two-thirds of those apprehended in February were single adults. About 9,500 of them were children, a 61 percent increase over January. The number of illegal immigrants is expected to be even higher in March.
Back to Kids in Cages, with No Media Outrage
The surge at the border has overwhelmed federal agents, federal facilities, and nonprofit organizations near the U.S.- Mexico border. At the beginning of March, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) holding facility in Donna, Texas, was reportedly holding more than 1,800 migrant children, more than 700 percent of its pandemic-era capacity.
It was so crowded that children told visitors that “they had to take turns sleeping on the floor.” In the Rio Grande Valley, ICE agents had to set up an outdoor processing center under a highway overpass to deal with the record number of migrants.
Even Roberta Jacobson, a special advisor to President Biden, admitted last week that the timing of the surge of migrants was “no coincidence,” given the changes in U.S. immigration policies under the Biden administration. She said in a White House briefing: “Surges tend to respond to hope…the idea that a more humane policy would be in place may have driven people to make that decision.”
She also acknowledged that human smugglers, commonly known as “coyotes,” are encouraging migrants to come to the United States by spreading word about “what was now possible.” Therefore, it is disingenuous for Pelosi to blame this border crisis on former President Trump. Instead, Pelosi should be held responsible for refusing to work with Trump on immigration reform back in 2019.
U.S. Immigration Law Is a Mess
Our family-reunion-based immigration system hasn’t changed much since 1965. It allocates more than 60 percent of the annual immigration visas for people who happen to be related to those already here, and less than 20 percent quota to skill-based immigrants.
This approach doesn’t serve our nation’s needs. The quota is mostly disconnected from our nation’s labor-market demand, and the family preference hierarchy favors the old (parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents) and the young (those younger than 21 years of age) but discriminates against the most likely productive potential citizens, people who may not have family connections, but do have knowledge, skills, and experiences that can contribute to our country.
Also, supporters of such a system ignore a sad irony that our immigration system, although ostensibly keyed to family reunification, causes a great deal of pain for many families due to its long delays and huge backlogs. There is a bipartisan agreement that our existing immigration system is broken. But there is a wide gap on how to reform it.
Democrats Refused a Chance to Improve Immigration
For too long, Americans have been told that any immigration reform had to be a choice between a severe restriction and open-border policies, while leaves the family-reunion-based model unchanged. However, in 2019, the Trump administration offered House Democrats a grand bargain on immigration reform by proposing a new approach: maintain the current number of legal immigrants at about 1.1 million admitted annually, and change from emphasizing family re-unification to emphasizing skill-based immigrants.
The proposal called for establishing three skill-based categories, branded as the “Build America Visa,” intending to keep America competitive by attracting workers with extraordinary talent, workers in sought-after specialized vocations, and exceptional students. Our allies, such as Canada and Australia, have shown that such skill-based immigration systems create a win-win for immigrants and their new home countries.
An immigration system that emphasizes skills and employment would also incentivize more economic migrants to seek legal immigration rather than risk their lives to enter the United States illegally with the help of terrorist drug cartels. The skill-based reform the Trump administration proposed was the most promising way forward to fix our broken immigration system.
Yet, led by Pelosi, House Democrats refused to take the proposal as an opening bid for further negotiation. Instead, they dug their heels in and insisted on keeping the existing broken system, later adding Biden’s open border.
Stop Using Immigrants as Political Pawns
What’s happening at our southern border right now is a man-made humanitarian crisis. We are witnessing the real-time consequence of disastrous public policies put forward by the Biden administration and congressional Democrats.
For the sake of everyone’s health and safety, the Biden administration must learn from the facts on the ground, reverse its policies, and stop incentivizing migrants to make those risky journeys north to enter the United States illegally.
Long-term, congressional Democrats should sit down with Republicans to develop a bipartisan immigration reform bill that no longer relies on the outdated family-based model. Instead, it should focus on skills and work, incentivizing legal immigration, and creating a win-win system for immigrants and the United States of America.