President Joe Biden officially announced his bid for a second term this week, despite having many policy failures in his first term — from record-high inflation to America’s diminishing global influence. Particularly, Biden’s disastrous open-border policy has caused so much harm to our nation’s security as well as U.S. citizens and migrants’ well-being that even left-leaning corporate media, which usually carry water for him, now demand accountability.
In her most recent report, Hannah Dreier of The New York Times holds the Biden administration responsible for causing the migrant child labor crisis and ignoring data and repeated warnings from concerned government workers and nonprofits. The White House responded by announcing this week that Susan Rice, the most senior White House official responsible for immigration, is stepping down. But Rice’s exit will not end the current crisis because the ultimate responsibility lies with Biden and the immigration policies he supports.
Since he took office, Biden’s open-border policy had led to historically high illegal border crossings, including by more than 250,000 children. Most came from Central America and were either sent by their parents or trafficked by smugglers to the U.S.
In 2021, concerned that the overcrowded shelters would bring bad optics for the Biden administration, Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), urged his staff to speed up releasing migrant children to their American sponsors. His underlings responded by loosening the vetting process of these sponsors.
Concern Among HHS Staff
Some HHS employees soon learned that “children were being released to adults who had lied about their identities, or who planned to exploit them,” the Times reported. “Adults were sponsoring multiple children, and minors were working instead of attending school.” Staff also became alarmed by how quickly they lost touch with migrant children’s whereabouts within a month of releasing them to their sponsors.
Once they were released, many migrant children (some are as young as 12) reportedly became indentured laborers. They were subjected to poor working conditions and grueling long hours in factories, fast-food restaurants, hotels, construction sites, and other business establishments throughout the United States. The only way these children could seek help was to call an HHS hotline. Consequently, reports of human trafficking to the hotline increased by about 1,300 percent over the past five years.
According to Dreier, concerned HHS staff, many of whom are Democrats, “often felt worse” about migrant children’s situation under the Biden administration than Trump’s. One HHS whistleblower alarmed her supervisor in 2021 with a warning: “If nothing continues to be done, there will be a catastrophic event.” But senior department officials fired whistleblowers rather than taking repeated warnings seriously.
Meanwhile, reports of migrant children being exploited in U.S. factories reached Biden’s point person on immigration, Rice, as early as the summer of 2021. Despite having worked for three Democratic administrations, from Bill Clinton’s to Barack Obama’s and now Biden’s, Rice failed to recognize a growing crisis. She and her team took no action, even after the U.S. Labor Department reported a 69 percent increase in child labor violations since 2018. Dreier criticized Rice and her team’s inaction as a “sort of a lack of curiosity or a lack of conscientious thinking.”
Biden and his administration have often lectured Americans that “slavery is America’s original sin” and said that we must redeem ourselves by adopting policies favoring some racial groups over others. Yet when information about enslaved migrant children emerged, the administration responded dismissively and indifferently.
After the Times published Dreier’s investigative report of more than 100 enslaved migrant children’s experiences in the U.S. in February this year, the White House finally reacted by announcing it would crack down on migrant child labor. But its proposal, such as more vigorous follow-up for children removed from shelters, is too little too late. Even Dreier admits the Biden administration’s proposal may help some migrant children temporarily but offers no long-term solution.
Policy Changes Needed
To address the migrant child labor issue, we must eliminate policies incentivizing parents and human traffickers to bring kids to the U.S.
The 2008 anti-trafficking law, supported by then-Sen. Biden and passed in the final days of the Bush administration, ensures that migrant children who came to the United States will not be turned away or sent back. Instead, immigration judges must give these children a full immigration hearing. But because our immigration courts are backlogged, migrant children must wait years to get a hearing. So they live in the U.S. just like Americans. According to CNN, “It didn’t take long for word to spread to families in Central America: Send the kids, and they’ll end up in immigration limbo with little threat of deportation — all the while getting a decent education.” That’s exactly what families in Central America did.
Historically, most illegal immigrants were single young men, but after the anti-trafficking law went into effect, the number of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border increased. Even corporate media such as CNN concluded the anti-trafficking law “contributes to the surge of child migrants from Central America overwhelming the U.S. immigration system.”
President Obama worsened the matter with his twin executive orders. After his 2012 order created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects young adults brought here illegally as children, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended twice as many unaccompanied minors in the fiscal year 2014 than in 2012. After Obama’s November 2014 announcement of the expansion of DACA and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), Border Patrol encountered 100,000 children along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2015 and 2016. Most of the illegal immigrants interviewed by Border Patrol stated that the U.S. government’s policies influenced their decision to come to the U.S.
Even Rice agreed that our well-intentioned policies are responsible. Dreier obtained a 2021 memo about the wave of unaccompanied migrant children (UC) who “voluntarily” separated from their families. A note scribbled by Rice read: “What is leading to ‘voluntary’ separation is our generosity to UCs!”
As a longtime U.S. senator and the vice president under President Obama, Biden had a front-row seat in witnessing how these policies he supported have incentivized more migrants, especially children, to take the dangerous journey to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and how many were subject to exploitation once they arrived. Yet, after he became president, Biden chose to double down on these failed policies with the assistance of the same Democrat operatives from the Obama administration. Consequently, the United States faces the worst border crisis in our history. The New York Times’ reports about enslaved migrant children remind us that the most defenseless population often pays the highest price for policy failures.
Biden’s first term has shown that despite his long career in public service, he lacks the interest, capability, or political will to fix our broken immigration system and secure our border. All he has done is make a bad situation much worse, and he doesn’t deserve another term.