A constant refrain from the Biden administration is that Donald Trump’s immigration policies violated American “values.” By now, the core value of the current administration in this area has become clear: lax enforcement of the laws.
This has created, to use Jen Psaki’s preferred word, a “challenge” on the Southwest border — the White House press secretary refuses to call the border surge a “crisis.” More on this “challenge” later.
First, let’s look at an important Trump administration policy being dismantled by Joe Biden: the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), announced in late 2018 in response to a surge of Central American migrants, mostly family units.
Instead of continuing MPP and tweaking if deemed necessary, Joe Biden has renounced it — a decision that has contributed mightily to the current humanitarian crisis.
The politically incorrect reality behind MPP, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” is that Congress has not established a separate visa category (let alone a numerically unbounded one) for folks hailing from poor countries.
Moreover, the unfortunate, depressing reality that one’s homeland is beset by corruption, poverty, and violence does not by itself constitute grounds for political asylum under America’s immigration laws.
Still, many economic migrants have gained access to the U.S. by saying a few “magic” asylum words at the border, after which, owing to terrible court decisions (an example in a moment), the government is effectively forced to release them pending asylum hearings — for which many never show.
MPP changed this. Migrants stayed in Mexico until their full asylum hearings (unaccompanied minors are exempt from the protocols), which the administration was able to provide in months as opposed to years by setting up immigration courts at the border.
Guess what happened when word got out that folks weren’t being released into the interior of the country? The migrant flows slowed substantially.
The Trump administration was falsely accused of throwing asylum seekers to the untender mercies of Mexican gangs and traffickers. The State Department worked closely with Mexican authorities to ensure that migrants’ basic needs were met, helping with housing and employment.
In truth, the immigration lobby opposes any program that doesn’t allow any and every migrant to enter the United States. Besides, it is the journey from the Northern Triangle up through Mexico that exposes migrants to the greatest dangers. And migrants make the harrowing journey because U.S. policy has incentivized it by conditionally releasing them into the interior of the U.S. upon arrival — a reality many liberals don’t care to acknowledge.
As an immigration official has explained in a declaration filed in federal court by the Trump administration, many migrants “decide to make the dangerous journey to illegally enter the U.S. [because] they expect to be immediately released from custody.”
Now a confession: The above quote (and many others to similar effect) is actually contained in a sworn declaration filed by Barack Obama’s Department of Justice (See Doc. 120-1, filed on 02-27-15, Case No. 2:85-cv-04544, available through PACER).
Joe might not remember this, but the Obama–Biden administration (as the one that followed) had its ability to police the border emasculated by bad court decisions. The worst was issued in Flores v. Lynch — the case in which the above declaration was filed.
Dolly Gee, a liberal U.S. District Court judge from California, decreed that the 20-year-old Flores settlement — under which the government foolishly agreed to release unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border to any adult or organization — applied to accompanied minors, i.e., family units.
Gee’s ruling, issued in 2015 and then upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, effectively blew up the Obama administration’s plan to disincentivize illegal border crossings by holding family units together until their (almost always bogus) asylum claims got heard. She forced the administration to release them into the United States.
Her ruling prompted the Trump administration’s ill-conceived family separation policy. Under the Ninth Circuit’s decision, which the Obama administration should have challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, only minors had to be released; adults accompanying them could be detained.
Whereas family separation was a mistake and was quickly halted, MPP was a sensible, humane, and helpful program.
But instead of continuing it and tweaking if deemed necessary, Joe Biden has renounced it — a decision that has contributed mightily to the current humanitarian crisis.
At the same time, the administration isn’t enforcing Donald Trump’s 42 U.S.C 265 (Public Health Security Act) order, which was turning back large numbers of migrants who may have been bringing more COVID-19 cases into the country.
And just last week, CNN reported that Joe Biden’s CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has suddenly allowed Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shelters for migrants to reach 100 percent capacity — lifting the 50 percent rule put in place due to the pandemic.
Dr. Walensky has been one of the biggest cheerleaders of the destructive lockdowns and school closures favored by Democrat governors and officials. As evidence piled up that the seasonal flu is more dangerous to kids than COVID-19, Dr. Walensky was still overhyping its dangers to children and young people, and the CDC’s new guidance has made it more difficult for many schools to open. Yet after getting pressure from the left, she has now opened HHS shelters to full capacity. It’s hard not to see politics in play.
When it comes to border security, as with interior enforcement (see my previous articles in The American Spectator here and here), it looks like the administration is adopting the non-enforcement posture for which left-wing activists have long agitated.
As the administration implements its bad policies, Joe Biden looks increasingly out to lunch — which if nothing else proves that you can be barely awake and really woke all at the same time.
Ken Sondik is an attorney in Zionsville, Indiana. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.