The effective opening of the U.S. border

The U.S. border with Mexico is now awash with teeming masses of migrants, with Customs and Border Patrol recording more illegal border crossings than ever before. 

For the past two years, the Biden administration has offered a policy of ludicrous gaslighting, insisting that the border is secure while talking up the need for a “path to citizenship” for those who have already illegally entered the U.S. Now the Title 42 policy has ended.

Its expiration means the effective opening of the U.S. border.

We’ve seen in the past what kinds of policies can reduce attempts to sneak into the country, but to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, those kinds of policies are unthinkable. Biden warned earlier this week, “It’s going to be chaotic for a while.” If only the president was in a position to do something about that chaos.

Title 42, the policy that allowed U.S. border and immigration officials to swiftly expel migrants back into Mexico even if they ask for asylum, ended at midnight. This week, the U.S. recorded more than 10,000 illegal border crossings per day, the highest levels ever. The images of the crowds of migrants at the border are like something out of a disaster movie.

The arguments about illegal immigration and the border are the same ones we’ve been having for decades now:

If you discuss an amnesty for those who have entered the country illegally, more people attempt to cross the border because they want to qualify for and benefit from the amnesty.

If an overwhelming majority of Democratic presidential candidates endorses decriminalizing crossing the border, those in other countries start to believe that the U.S. does not really want to enforce its border or immigration laws.

When a sufficient number of elected officials denounce Border Patrol agents and call for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, migrants may reasonably conclude that the U.S. government is, at best, conflicted about enforcing its immigration laws, and that it might some day repeal them entirely.

When localities announce that they are “sanctuary cities” and that their law-enforcement agencies will not cooperate with federal law enforcement on enforcing immigration laws, migrants know they have better odds of not being deported back to their home countries.

And of course, human smugglers are telling poor and desperate people in Central and South America that the U.S. border is open, and have been doing so since Biden took office.

The first step to effective enforcement of immigration laws is for the government to want to enforce its immigration laws. A significant number of American elected officials do not want to enforce immigration laws.

We have seen steep drops in attempts at illegal immigration in the not-too-distant past, and not just because of the pandemic in 2020. No, one steep decline in illegal immigration occurred in 2017, particularly in the first half of the year:

Arrests of undocumented immigrants rose and apprehensions along the Southwest border were down significantly last year, according to the end-of-year numbers released Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

During fiscal year 2017, there were a total of 310,531 apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol nationwide. That’s the lowest its been in at least 17 years.

Of those apprehensions, nearly 98 percent were along the Southwest border. Apprehensions are used as an indicator to measure illegal border crossings.

April 2017 was the month with the lowest border enforcement activity on record, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees Border Patrol. Since the April-low of 11,127 southwest border apprehensions, the numbers have crept back up.

I suspect you remember what happened in January 2017. The U.S. inaugurated a new president whose views and policies could not have been any clearer. The man had, and has, an epic amount of flaws. But a policy of clear, explicit warnings and strict enforcement, coupled with additional border fencing to direct migrants into areas with more enforcement personnel, as called for in 2017 by Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council — the labor union that represents U.S. Border Patrol agents — worked.

Our current border- and immigration-law-enforcement policies aren’t working. Don’t ask me, ask the Democrats:

U.S. border cities have struggled to shelter the new arrivals and provide transportation to other destinations. Far from the border, other cities say they are also struggling to cope, such as New York, where Mayor Eric Adams temporarily loosened right-to-shelter rules because of strained resources.

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent who left the Democratic Party five months ago, criticized the administration on Thursday, telling reporters the president had failed to adequately prepare for the end of Title 42.

She said small towns in her state have been struggling to transport arriving migrants with little access to resources like buses or shelters.

Even “good” Democratic governors have briefly embraced busing migrants to big cities.

Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jon Tester of Montana, and Sinema want to extend Title 42 authority for two years.

Instead of clarity, Biden administration officials have offered confusing, contradictory mush, coupled with an odd concession that ending Title 42 is going to make everything worse for a while, and the country should just suck it up and deal with it. On Tuesday, President Biden warned that because of the end of Title 42 — a policy change he deliberately enacted! — “It’s going to be chaotic for a while.” Then on Wednesday, Biden admitted, “We’ve had chaos at the border for a number of years.” (Gee, it’s so hard to understand why the White House staff has him doing so few sit-down interviews or press conferences, huh?)

Late last year, Vice President Kamala Harris infamously asserted that by wanting to make the border secure, the administration had made the border secure:

CHUCK TODD: We’re going to have two million people cross this border for the first time ever. You’re confident this border’s secure?

VICE PRES. KAMALA HARRIS: We have a secure border in that that is a priority for any nation, including ours and our administration. But there are still a lot of problems that we are trying to fix given the deterioration that happened over the last four years. We also have to put into place a law and a plan for a pathway for citizenship for the millions of people who are here and are prepared to do what is legally required to gain citizenship. We don’t have that in place because people are playing politics in a state like this and in Congress.

Early in his administration, Biden famously put Harris in charge of mitigating the tide of migration crossing the southern border. We can debate whether her role could accurately be described as “border czar,” but this is how President Biden described the assignment back on March 24, 2021: “I’ve asked her, the VP, today — because she’s the most qualified person to do it — to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that help — are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.”

In June 2021, Harris did travel to Guatemala and said, on camera to potential migrants, “Do not come” — and she got grief from progressives who said her blunt statement was “callous” and “Trump-like.”

There’s some reason to believe Harris didn’t like being put into the role of the administration’s bad cop on illegal immigration, and gradually did what she could to distance herself from the issue. By 2022, the Los Angeles Times noticed “ambivalence from Harris toward a high-profile issue that is politically fraught at home and challenging abroad.”

When the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart wrote about Harris having an excellent year in 2022, he didn’t mention immigration, the border, or Central America at all. And earlier this year, New York City mayor Eric Adams said Harris was too distracted by other issues. “There needs to be an individual who is dedicated to do the decompression strategy for the federal government. . . . One person should, we should be looking at — it is often stated that as the role of the VP has too much in her portfolio to be focused on just doing that decompression strategy. If not, the decompression strategy can’t be New York City.”

President Biden reportedly fumed that Harris isn’t “somebody who takes anything off of his plate.” Say, what big assignment did he give her that is absolutely not “off his plate” right now?

Stemming the tide of migrants heading north toward the U.S. border was always going to involve making decisions and enacting policies that progressives didn’t like. Harris took the mildest of first steps in that direction with her “do not come” statement in Guatemala, and subsequently reacted like she had touched a hot stove.