It’s a well-established fact that the U.S. border crisis began shortly after President Joe Biden assumed office and rescinded most of former President Donald Trump’s border security policies. Now, Biden and his team are working to remove one of the last lines of defenses left over from the Trump administration’s border policy toolbox.
Two years ago under Trump, the Centers for Disease Control instituted a public health order called Title 42 to expedite the expulsion of illegal border crossers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The policy was designed to prevent overcrowding in border facilities, which policymakers feared would lead to the rapid spread of Covid-19 along the border.
Days after the CDC’s announcement, Missouri, Arizona, and Louisiana sued the administration and demanded a reversal, claiming the termination of Title 42 will trigger a surge of bogus asylum claims and “create an unprecedented surge at the border that will overwhelm Defendants’ capacity to enforce immigration laws at the border.”
Several Democrat senators the administration needs to install Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court also expressed strong opposition to the repeal of Title 42 without a plan to take on the expected migrant surge.
After facing pressure from its own side, the Biden administration might opt to keep Title 42 and reverse the CDC’s plan to end it next month. Any action from the White House, however, will not change the near-certainty of a massive border surge in late May.
Word about the end of Title 42 has already spread among smugglers and other migrant networks. As a result, thousands upon thousands of illegal migrants will trek to the U.S. southern border in coming weeks in hopes of filing an asylum claim and getting released into the United States for years.
Under the administration’s current policies, most of the illegal crossers will get into the United States — and be allowed to remain — without significant consequences. As my colleague John Daniel Davidson wrote earlier this week: “ending Title 42 under these circumstances means every migrant who gets over the border and claims asylum will get to remain in the United States, legally and with work authorization, for years. As a matter of policy, it is effectively indistinguishable from open borders.”
Due to these concerns of a rapid migrant surge at the end of May, there’s a small chance that the federal government will halt or at least delay rescinding Title 42. Keeping it, however, won’t deter illegal migrants who have heard the news from surging to the U.S.-Mexico border.
I discussed the potential for a migrant influx with Rodney Scott, the retired chief of U.S. Border Patrol, who was fired by the Biden administration last year because he didn’t share the administration’s lax approach to border security. Scott, now a distinguished senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said the expected rise in illegal border crossings at the end of May isn’t just a consequence of the Title 42 rollback but the Biden administration’s failed border policy altogether.
“The wave started when they went on national TV and basically said ‘Hey, you know, there’s a welcome sign in America and we’re not going to be deporting people. We’re going to shut down interior enforcement and we’re going to stop all effective programs on the border,'” Scott said.
It’s What The Cartels Want
Regardless of Title 42’s fate, thousands upon thousands of illegal crossers are guaranteed to pour across the border every day because they know where the Biden administration stands on border policy.
Mark Morgan, former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told me that Mexican drug cartels, which control vast swaths of northern Mexico and profit off illegal immigration by charging migrants a fee to pass through their territory, see Biden’s open border policies as an opportunity to cash in.
“The cartels and smugglers, they pay attention to the shift in policies better than most Americans do in our country and so they’ve already used the rhetoric that Title 42 was going away to convince more migrants ‘Hey, you got to come now. Now’s the time to come because they’re going to start letting everybody in,'” Morgan said. “Some of the bump you’re seeing is just that the rhetoric has already begun. The smugglers have already convinced the migrants to come.”
Already, hundreds of migrants determined to come to the United States have formed a caravan and used a large cross as a battering ram to push through Mexican law enforcement officers at the Guatemala-Mexico border. Some of the migrants had been camped out in the southern Mexico border town of Tapachula for weeks waiting for Biden’s signal to make their way to the United States.
Most of the migrants in that group are from Venezuela and Northern Triangle countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Biden claims his administration is addressing the “root causes” of illegal migration in those regions, but border officials have also seen a growing number of migrants from hundreds of different countries in recent months, including Ukraine.
Even with Title 42, Biden’s border crisis has only grown worse each month as the administration scales back deportations even though illegal crossings rise.
“Beyond a policy shift, it’s really a continuation of the policies they set in place on day one and then creating a complete and total open border,” Morgan said.
In April of last year, nearly 1,000 illegal migrants crossed the border daily unpursued. This April, more than 8,000 migrants are expected to be apprehended at the southern border every day. According to current Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, that number “will probably become the norm over the next 30 to 45 days.”
Ever since Biden repealed Trump’s border security measures, illegal crossings have grown exponentially. By removing protections such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as the Remain in Mexico program) and explicitly scaling back ICE arrests and deportations, Biden has encouraged illegal immigration.
Already, border officials have logged at least one million arrests just six months into the 2022 fiscal year, putting them on track to record more than 2 million encounters by the end of the fiscal year.
Last summer, some 15,000 Haitian migrants congregated under a bridge near the border in Del Rio, Texas. The humanitarian crisis was a nightmare for border officials and the White House, which finally caught some of corporate media’s wrath when images of the squalid encampment emerged.
Despite criticism about its border policies then, the administration never changed course. Instead, Biden’s team doubled down and even spread lies about border agents whipping migrants, which the press amplified.
There’s ‘Got-Aways’ and Then There’s ‘Walk-Aways’
With so many people crossing the border, border officials are struggling to keep up.
“There’s not even enough computer terminals or bandwidth to effectively process all these people crossing the border, which is why they end up getting released on parole,” Scott explained to me. “It’s really just semantics. They are basically just released into the U.S. with very minimal records checks because they’re only doing record checks against pretty much U.S. databases.”
Processing migrants is already a disaster, and the removal of Title 42 is only bound to make it worse. Even now, the administration is planning to introduce “pre-screening” methods including apps designed to cut down processing time by cutting out important vetting processes.
Hundreds of thousands of illegal crossers enter the United States to surrender to border officials. Oftentimes, these migrant are released into the United States with little to no vetting or leverage to report to an ICE office. Hundreds of thousands more are crossing undetected or without being apprehended.
In the 2022 fiscal year alone, which began in October, border officials recorded more than 300,000 “got-aways,” who did not surrender to border officials and were not apprehended.
As bad as that number seems, it’s actually worse than that, because those 300,000 “got-aways” do not account for everyone who crossed the border undetected, only the ones border officials were able to record but not apprehend. It’s also just a small portion of the 2.5 million migrants who have illegally entered and stayed in the United States since Biden assumed office.
The Border Crisis Doesn’t Just Affect Border States
The illegal migrants who are released into the United States or sneak past Border Patrol usually have a plan. Many have jobs lined up and places to live. Oftentimes, their plans take them far from the southern border.
“We’re getting to a tipping point,” Scott said. “This many people being released into the U.S. this fast is going to change the demographics of U.S. cities because nothing stays at the borders.”
This is a cause for concern for many states struggling with the criminal effects of an open border, not just states that sit close to Mexico. As Morgan noted in our conversation, “the overwhelming majority of illegal migrants do not stay in the border towns and states.”
“What happens and what comes through our borders does not stay there. The border cities and states there, they receive the additional brunt of it, but they’re just the throughput,” Morgan explained. “And it doesn’t matter what the danger is whether that’s an invasion of illegal migrant, or drugs or gang members or criminal migrant, or a threat to our national security vulnerability, the border towns and states are the throughput but they’re making their way to every town, city, and state.”
When illegal border-crossers are released without significant repercussions and without being forced to report to an immigration facility, it endangers the entire nation. In 2021, approximately 47,000 migrants were released into the United States because of Biden’s policies but did not report to ICE on time or at all, as they were required to do.
Cartels, gangs, and other illegal operations are the first groups to exploit this release loophole for criminal activity. They use Biden’s lax border enforcement to shuttle illicit drugs and smuggle migrants into the United States undetected. These deadly drugs such as fentanyl are trafficked through the southern border in industrial quantities. As a result, nationwide drug overdoses are on the rise.
“When you open your borders up to one threat or one crisis, you’re opening your borders up to the vast set of threats that we face,” Morgan said. “In this case, illegal immigration. But what this administration wants people to believe is somehow you can support border security and support illegal immigration at the same time. That’s just a bald-faced lie. They’re not mutually exclusive. They’re interconnected.”
Biden has thus far only made the border crisis he created worse, but Scott says it’s not for a lack of possibility: “The last administration proved that you can control the border,” Scott said.
Biden and his administration are simply choosing not to.
“The [Biden] administration inherited the most secure border in our lifetime and they dismantled it,” Morgan said.