Feature 12.14.2023 9 minutes

The Cartels Run the Show

Migrant Crossings At The Southern Border Continue Despite Title 42 Ruling

Without major policy changes that secure our border, America will be overrun.

On Tuesday, December 5, more than 12,000 foreigners crossed the U.S. border illegally—the highest daily total of illegal immigrants ever recorded. We are currently witnessing the greatest illegal immigration crisis in American history.

In October, the House Committee on Homeland Security reported that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered a record-breaking 269,735 illegal immigrants in the previous month, “marking another unprecedented milestone under…President Joe Biden’s open border policies.” This represents “an 86% increase” from June 2023. “Since President Biden took office there have been 7.5 million encounters nationwide” with illegal migrants, millions of whom have been “processed” and transported (often at taxpayer expense) across our country.

“[I]n addition,” the House Committee reports, “there are 1.7 million known gotaways” who have snuck into the United States by evading border patrol agents while they are distracted and overwhelmed with paper work. Illegal immigration has increased “more than 100% compared to FY 2019.” According to the New York Times, the illegal migrants come not simply from Latin America but from “more than 160 countries,” including Iran, China, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Somalia, as well as large parts of Africa and the Middle East.

The House Committee reported a tenfold increase in migrants apprehended at the border who were on the Terrorist Watch List. In Fiscal Year 2021 there were 15; in FY 2022, there were 98; and in FY 2023 (ending September 30, 2023), there were 169 migrants apprehended on the terror list. It is, of course, unknown how many of the 1.7 million “gotaways” are potential terrorists.

Only a few months into the Biden Administration (on April 10, 2021), the head of Border Patrol was asked on television, Who controls the border? He responded: “The cartels control the border now. It’s not even the border patrol. It’s not even the U.S. government.” Two months later, on June 19, the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reiterated that the cartels control the border: they “dictate everything.” Nothing moves (families, unaccompanied minors, single young men, women, fentanyl, heroin, cocaine) unless the cartels give their O.K.

In his trenchant new book, Overrun, Center for Immigration Studies Fellow and former Texas counter-terrorism official Todd Bensman illuminates today’s reality on America’s southern border. Bensman interviewed both border patrol officers and agents of the Mexican cartels. He explains that our border patrol has been ordered to “stand down” and not to interdict or arrest cartel traffickers as they have done under all previous presidents in American history. Instead Bensman describes a situation he witnessed in May 2021: “The [border patrol] officers chatted amiably with their former cartel adversaries and accepted the immigrant handoffs like relay racers accepting a baton from teammates with a first-name collegiality that comes with routine and time.”

In other words, the Biden Administration’s border policy has resulted in a de facto partnership, accommodation, and cooperation with the violent Mexican cartels. The cartels are stronger and richer than ever. Whereas in 2020 they earned 500 million dollars, last year under Biden they made an estimated 13 billion. While border patrol officers are kept busy “processing” illegal immigrants, giving them documents, and turning them over to NGOs for transportation throughout America, the cartel agents are bringing in record amounts of the deadly opioid fentanyl through the undefended sections of the border. The drug ended up killing 109,000 Americans over the last two years.

The Biden White House and its political appointees at DHS and the Justice Department have responded to criticism by repeating the mantra that there is no border crisis; that they have operational control of the border; and that the “border is secure.” Their own actions belie this utterly.

In clear violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, they have released millions of dubious “asylum seekers” into the country before their claims were legally adjudicated. Significantly, on his first day in office, President Biden announced a freeze on all deportations—including those of criminal aliens guilty of manslaughter, vandalism, assault, and other offenses.

Biden’s appointees ended the “Remain in Mexico” program and Title 42, which limited the overwhelming number of migrants entering the country and temporarily eased the burden on local communities and the outnumbered, overrun border patrol.

They violated immigration law regarding the parole of illegal aliens. Under Section 212(d)(5)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, illegal aliens may be granted parole only “on a case by case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” For example, an unauthorized migrant needing an operation to save his life, or required to give testimony in an important court proceeding, may be paroled. Instead, DHS has granted mass paroles to large numbers of illegal migrants. For example, during one December on the southern border, more than 130,000, or 75 percent of the 174,000 migrants apprehended, were simply released “on parole.”

According to Congressman Mark Green (chairman of the Homeland Security Committee), DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “utterly abused” the CBP One mobile-phone application originally meant for legitimate frequent travelers. The Biden Administration created a system to permit (indeed, to encourage) illegal aliens to use the app to make an appointment to apply for asylum in the U.S. while still in their home country. By using the app, migrants can simply fly into the United States and receive parole upon arriving. The House Homeland Security Committee revealed that over a nine-month period, 278,431 appointments were made by illegal immigrants over the CBP One app, and 266,846 of them were released into the country on parole.

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans worry that the Biden Administration has shown disregard for the safety of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children transported to the United States by the cartels. There was a memorandum of agreement among federal agencies which sought to ensure that potential sponsors of the unaccompanied children were thoroughly vetted against any criminal concerns.

The Biden Administration terminated this memorandum of agreement and stopped the DNA testing and finger printing mandated by Congress for illegal migrants. The vast majority of the childrens’ sponsors are themselves illegal aliens. Early DNA testing revealed that 20 percent were not family members. Some, of course, are cartel agents posing as family members, who will keep the children in some form of servitude.

In its dispute with the State of Texas, the Biden Administration appears determined to facilitate the continuous entry of illegal immigrants. When Texas placed floating barriers in the Rio Grande to deter illegal immigration for (in the governor’s words) “tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands” of illegal migrants trying to cross the border, Biden’s Justice Department responded with a lawsuit to force Texas to remove the barriers.

Laying Down the Law

There is a solution to this dire situation. Congress should enact the policy changes in proposed legislation (HR2) that passed the House in May, coupled with a companion bill that has been introduced by Republicans in the Senate. This legislation would require Biden’s DHS to follow current law and detain, not release, illegal migrants.

The proposed legislation would tighten asylum rules to make sure that asylum-seeking migrants are, in fact, genuine refugees who are threatened by real persecution in their home countries and not simply economic migrants. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) explains that the legislation would “curtail the ability to grant asylum on the basis of generalized violence or criminal activity in a country” (as opposed to situations particular to the person seeking asylum). The screening standard for potential asylum-seekers would be changed from requiring that “there is a significant possibility” of the migrant facing persecution, to requiring that the migrant is “more likely than not” to be in danger of persecution.

Further, a migrant would be ineligible to apply for asylum if he or she had traveled through another country that is a party to the U.N. Refugee Convention of 1951 or the 1967 Refugee Protocol “but did not seek protection there” and simply continued traveling to the United States. This would prove that they were not under American law a legitimate asylum seeker, but likely an economic migrant.

Most importantly, the legislation would limit DHS’s parole authority. Instead of dealing with immigrant parole on a case-by-case basis (as required by law), the CBO reported that since the start of FY 2022, Biden’s DHS has “paroled about 1.5 million aliens into the United States.” Under the proposed HR2 legislation, CBO “expects about 4 million fewer aliens would receive parole over the 2024-2033 period.” Further, the legislation would end the practice of massive numbers of migrants gaining entry to our country illegally through Biden’s bogus CBP One app program. In addition, it protects vulnerable children from human traffickers and cartels by keeping families together during removal proceedings and reuniting children with their families back in their home countries.

The proposed legislation criminalizes visa overstays, traditionally about half of all illegal immigration. It cuts off funds to the self-interested NGOs that are profiting from, and abetting, illegal immigration by assisting the Biden Administration in transporting millions of illegal migrants (often secretly) throughout our nation. It mandates (as required by current law) that asylum seekers have their finger-prints and DNA taken. HR2 and the Senate companion also require resumed construction on the border wall; more up-to-date infrastructure for border protection; and more border patrol agents (while increasing their overtime pay).

Further, the proposed legislation also mandates E-Verify to insure that employers are not hiring illegal aliens. E-Verify is probably the greatest single disincentive to illegal immigration because it would (as required by current law) prevent illegal immigrants from working in the United States.

The illegal mass migration surge of the last two years is the greatest single crisis facing our nation today. If it continues through the next year and a half of Biden’s term and perhaps beyond until January 2029, the results will be catastrophic.

Biden’s response is that his administration proposed legislation to “fix” immigration on his first day in office. What Biden proposed would result in a large-scale amnesty for millions of current illegal aliens and a massive increase in low-skilled legal immigration. In other words, it would double down on the failed so-called “comprehensive immigration reform” legislation of the last 30 years, without even the fig leaf of enforcement measures that were included in prior iterations. This is ludicrously unserious. If adopted, it would create an enormous incentive for even more illegal immigration while undercutting the wages of the most vulnerable American workers.

What Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are proposing now in pending legislation is simply more money to “process” more illegal migrants into the United States.

Biden and Schumer have major priorities in the forthcoming budget supplemental package. Republicans in the House and Senate should insist that nothing passes without embedding the core elements of HR2 (not amorphous funds for phony “border security,” which in reality means more migrant processing) into any supplemental budget bill that Congress passes. Otherwise, massive migration from every corner of the planet will continue unabated, perhaps until all of America looks like today’s migrant-occupied Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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