BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON | OCT 1, 2021
There are anywhere from 19,000-60,000 more immigrants headed for the southern border of the US. In addition, immigrants recently deported to Haiti are ready to make another try at getting in here.
The crisis at our southern border isn’t going away. It is getting worse, and the Government has seemed helpless in trying to do something about it.
In September an estimated 30,000 migrants crossed into the country. Many of them forded the Rio Grande River and set up a makeshift encampment under the bridge connecting Mexico and the United States at Del Rio TX, hoping for an open gateway into their promised land.
Now they’re gone. All 30,00 of them. Half of them disappeared in a matter of a few days, along with the telltale signs of their squalid encampment. You would think you were watching a television sci-fi series. They were there at the beginning of the week and gone by the end of it. Poof!
“They want those people out from under that bridge so they can’t be seen anymore. It’s an optics thing,” unnamed Department of Homeland Security (HS) officials told the Washington Examiner. “They are moving them around for process and release. They’re going to have everyone at the bridge gone in the next two days.”
Mission accomplished, boasted DHC Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He said the customs officials who pulled it off were heroes.
Our customs workers are heroes, but what has occurred at the southern border is nothing to boast about. It has been and continues to be humiliating, another reason why foreign adversaries and allies alike must look upon our shores and shake their heads at what they see.
What transpired most recently at Del Rio leaves too many unanswered questions and too many concerns about the broader implications for this Administration and the future of immigration. Our Federal governmental agencies, Congress, and the media all failed to do their jobs.
The immigration statistics regarding Del Rio are vague and contradictory, but here’s how I think they stack up:
- Of the 30,000, 8,000 went back to Mexico on their own volition. We’re not sure who they are or why they left or where they went but it is unreasonable to assume they’ll be back.
- Another 5,000 have been detained by US customs, Secretary Mayorkas said, “to determine whether they will be expelled or placed in immigration removal proceedings.” We’re not sure who they are or how long it will take to process them or where they will go once processed.
- Another 2,000 were put on planes and transported to Haiti. Secretary Mayorkas claimed, according to CBS that “We have in fact determined, despite the tragic and devastating earthquake, that Haiti is in fact capable of receiving individuals.” Nonsense. Haiti is a hostile environment that many of those migrants left years ago to resettle in South America. It is no longer home to them.
- Mayorkas didn’t seem sure about how many others were released into the US. “Approximately, I think it’s about 10,000 or so, 12,000,” he told Chris Wallace of Fox News. They were probably all given instructions to report for an asylum court hearing or appear at an Immigration office at some point. Based on experience we know that nearly half of those given court dates never show up and others wait many months or years to be called.
- A new analysis of Border Patrol reports By Washington Times immigration reporter Stephen Dinan revealed that the number of migrants released after being caught at the border during the months of August 2020 and August 2021 increased by 430,000 percent. “In August 2020… Border Patrol agents caught more than 47,000 illegal immigrants and immediately released just 10…This August…Border Patrol made more than 195,000 arrests and released 43,941.”
That brings the total number to 27,400, but that is still 2,600 short of the 30,000 Mayorkas identified. Where are they? Who are they?
Vaccine Exemption for the New Arrivals
Migrants who were set free were not vaccinated or even tested for COVID-19, according to Secretary Mayorkas. Homeland Security now requires border agents to be vaccinated, but not the migrants. The President is requiring teachers and front-line medical workers to be vaccinated, but not migrants. Afghan refugees are all vaccinated, but not migrants. The Biden Administration has been on a media blitz to immunize the country, but not the migrants. “Mr. Mayorkas said 20 percent of migrants arriving are ill. Given the numbers – 7,500 caught on a given day…would lead to the spread of COVID-19, he said,” according to Dinan. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the US Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told the media, however, that migrants were not responsible for a surge in the virus in the US.
In the meantime, the US is still experiencing about 2,000 deaths a day from the virus and more than 20 percent of them are children. The number of total dead from the disease just passed 700,000. Who made the decision not to immunize those migrants who may well be super-spreaders now on the road to communities across the country?
The stories of criminality accompanying migration are very disconcerting, some alarming. Clearly, the criminals represent an extremely small number of migrants who get into the US, but that is little comfort to the victims of those that do, from human smugglers to drug traffickers and gang members.
Consider the stories Utah county Sheriff Kenneth Carpenter who told Dinan with the Washington Times that a recent traffic stop for reckless driving resulted in the confiscation of 5 pounds of methamphetamines and $8,000 in cash, both traceable to the border. The meth is a tiny sampling of the 180,000 pounds that Customs and Border Protection agents have confiscated so far this year, according to the Times. A total of 10,000 pounds of deadly fentanyl have been seized. Most comes from Mexico. “State officials have warned sheriffs that Honduran gangs have stepped up drug trafficking,” Dinan reported.
Drug trafficking is not the only problem. There are worse. Human smugglers are literally and figuratively making a killing. Smuggling victims suffer from malnutrition, heat exhaustion, and suffocation. Some drowned in coastal waters. Some women are raped. Some children are forced into slavery, separated from their families. Some die.
Crime is exacerbated by jurisdictions across the country that prohibit law enforcement entities from notifying Immigration Enforcement when illegal immigrants are let out of jail or due for a court appearance essentially preventing them from being deported. Secretary Mayorkas has now instructed customs agents to not apprehend illegal immigrants if their status is the only reason. That is presumably already the case, given that there is an estimated 11 million in the US. What the Secretary seems to be saying is cease apprehensions.
Administration Follies and Failures
The President and his Administration have made a mess of the border crisis. They had plenty of advance warning but remained in denial for weeks. Their first mistake was refusing to acknowledge it is a crisis. They also refused to acknowledge their own complicity in making the crisis worse by leaving the damaging impression that our borders were open to all, and all were welcome. In Del Rio, they attempted to cover up the enormity of the problem by restricting media access, lying about conditions, and refusing to provide details. They attempted to divert public attention from the crisis with smokescreens and illusion. They failed to create the procedures critical to processing, vaccinating, and screening that many migrants.
One of the worst illusory diversions was the ‘reimagining’ of a snippet of video from Reuters and a few still photos of border patrol officers on horseback who were originally accused of corralling and then whipping migrants they encountered attempting to enter or reenter the Del Rio encampment.
“The White House is using a single episode to scapegoat law enforcement and deflect criticism from its immigration failure,” the Wall Street Journal editorialized. The media “mistook the officers’ reins for whips and claimed they’d been wielded against migrants.”
Not hampered by a lack of facts, the White House, members of Congress, the media, and civil rights leaders rushed to the table to play the race card. Vice President Kamala Harris exclaimed “I was outraged by it, it was horrible and deeply troubling…” Human beings should not be treated that way, and as we all know, it also evokes images of some of the worst moments of our history, where that kind of behavior has been used against the indigenous people in our country, has been used against African Americans during times of slavery.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib called it “human rights abuses.” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) declared that the whipping was “worse than what we witnessed in slavery,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) called it “white supremacist behavior.”
Secretary Mayorkas originally withheld judgment, but a day later told CNN the images “troubled me profoundly…one cannot weaponize a horse.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, who traveled to Del Rio, spent an hour in the camp and held a press conference, throwing more gas on the fire. However, he was shouted down and was unable to finish.
President Biden outdid them all with volcanic fire and brimstone: “To see people treated like they did, horses nearly running them over, people being strapped—it’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay. There will be an investigation underway now and there will be consequences. There will be consequences.”
The defamed Border Patrol agents were given desk duty and all agents were forbidden to use horses in enforcement. Secretary Mayorkas said there would be a hasty investigation over in a matter of days.
An internal review would be the proper course to take. But what kind of investigation can be done when it has been prejudiced by the media, the Secretary, the Vice President, and the President himself whose language left no doubt what he expected the outcome to be? As legal Professor Jonathan Turley wrote, Biden’s comments “left many of us surprised, if not stunned.“ He reminded readers that “During the Trump Administration, many of us correctly chastised the President for crossing the line in discussing ongoing Justice Department investigations and calling for particular resolutions.”
The sorry immigration saga in the US should motivate Congress and the President to act on bipartisan reform legislation. It’s there, sensible solutions that have been debated, analyzed, compromised, and even put in legislative language. But that has not been the case. Reform, or even elements of it, have been the victim of inexcusable partisanship and stubborn extremism.
The solutions are there. I’ve talked about both problems and solutions in previous columns. What’s missing is the political will to reach agreement on them, which requires legislators to set aside their partisan interests and overcome the risks to their electoral job security to get the job done. This goes for Republicans and Democrats. The media’s insistence that the blame rests with Republicans only is worthy of blame. It is at worst a brazen lie at best an exaggeration.
The country deserves more and so do the migrants and the millions upon millions of Americans who have suffered from this crisis. It has gotten to the point now where every town in America is a border town. The victims are also people in those communities who can’t support the influx of new arrivals. The victims are new arrivals here legitimately whose future can be in doubt for years. What must it be like to live here for years never knowing your status, never being sure that you belong?
The media’s culpability in preventing resolution cannot be underestimated. Never has that been more apparent than in the biased and incomplete coverage of the latest crisis, especially the inattention to the lack of covid vaccinations and testing, and the utter lack of transparency from the Administration. The out-of-control obsession with condemning and reversing all things Trump that infects the media and the Administration has virtually eradicated broader security.
This ends where it began, with anywhere from 19,000-60,000 more migrants, desperate enough to escape their inhumane condition at home to risk worse inhumanity and suffering crossing many borders to get to ours. Allowing this to happen has been the image of us for too long. It must not be us anymore.
Editor’s Note: Mike Johnson is a former journalist, who worked on the Ford White House staff and served as press secretary and chief of staff to House Republican Leader Bob Michel, prior to entering the private sector. He is co-author of a book, Surviving Congress, a guide for congressional staff, co-founder and member of the Board of the Congressional Institute, and a participant in the Congress of Tomorrow congressional reform project. Johnson is retired. He is married to Thalia Assuras and has five children and four grandchildren.