By Mark Krikorian for RealClearPolicy
President Biden finally seems to be realizing that there is a crisis on the southern border. In March he assured reporters, “The truth is, nothing has changed. It happens every single year. "
But now that polls clearly show he is vulnerable to immigration, he is accusing the Trump administration of not telling him there was going to be a border crisis.
The government's fear of political disputes also emerges from the game of hot potatoes for the public face of the border efforts. It was DHS Secretary Mayorkas at first, but when he performed poorly, the White House took control of border messages.
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The person on hand was former Ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, who was responsible for migration issues on the Biden National Security Council. But Vice President Harris was named border tsar, then Jacobson resigned, then Harris made it clear that she was only the tsarina of the "root causes" and need not be prevented from explaining the chaos at the border.
The White House's confusion in response to the boom in Central Americans and others on the border is reminiscent of President Jimmy Carter's response to a previous migration crisis.
Back in 1980 (when Biden had been in the Senate for more than seven years), Carter triggered the Mariel Boatlift from Cuba by welcoming potential migrants with "open hearts and open arms" and getting more than he expected.
But as politically damaging as the Mariel Boatlift was for his government and party (Bill Clinton lost his re-election as governor of Arkansas), Carter had as much leeway as Biden to respond successfully to the migration crisis he had triggered.
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First, the migrants all came by boat and were therefore much easier to ban. More importantly, immigration was not a major issue in Carter's campaign, nor was it a major concern for the various stakeholders who supported him, and enabled him to stop the flow without pushing too much back from his base.
Biden does not have these advantages; The Central Americans who took him on "La Invitacion" to jump across the border en masse cannot simply be fished out of the sea, and Biden is politically tied to a permissive approach to immigration.
But the White House realizes that it has to do something to slow the flow. The government has therefore agreed on three initiatives that it hopes will remove the border crisis from the headlines. Neither of them are likely to work, but are worth checking out.
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Enforcement of outsourcing to Mexico
The first immediate response was to get Mexico to do what the Biden government is unwilling to do.
The White House is sending around 2.5 million doses of vaccine to Mexico in return for a promised crackdown on Central Americans heading north. (The rejection of something in return is not to be taken seriously.)
Vice President Harris held a consultation with the Mexican president last week about what can only be called bribery to get Mexico, as the Washington Post mildly put it, “to perform immigration enforcement functions at a time when such actions are common US courts face legal challenges or are politically uncomfortable for Democrats. "
Or, as immigration analyst Cris Ramon told the New York Times, "All positive humanitarian action will be carried out by the Biden administration and then the Mexicans will be left with the dirty work."
But can it actually work to outsource the protection of American borders to our southern neighbors? President Trump is known to have received Mexican cooperation in enforcing the borders through the threat of trade sanctions – a threat the Mexican authorities took seriously because they rightly feared Trump would get through.
However, this collaboration worked to the extent that it did, as both US politics and Mexico were pulling in the same direction. The Mexican National Guard would make it difficult to cross its own southern border with Guatemala, but if you got past them, the American authorities would turn you away, too.
However, under Biden, Mexican and American politics point in opposite directions and negate much of the effects of Mexico's enforcement efforts.
Biden puts Mexico in the position of Wal-Mart security officer charged with controlling the crowds desperate for the Black Friday deals.
As long as government actions send the message that migrants have a good chance of being released to the US (and virtually no chance of ever being removed), migrants will find ways to circumvent Mexican ban efforts.
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The second pillar of the government's approach is to try to address the root causes of migration – poverty, corruption, disorder and ineffective governance that lead people to consider leaving their country in the first place.
On his first day in office, the president announced a plan to give Central America $ 4 billion over the next four years. This is, as mentioned, the bailiwick of Vice President Harris, as was Vice President Biden during the Obama administration.
There are two problems in response to the border crisis. First, there is no evidence that we have any idea how to do this.
After all, the Biden administration is about nation building, and our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan should be humble, not duplicate. The President's simple comments on this point do not inspire confidence:
In one of the big cities, the reason people left was because they couldn't walk in the street – their children were beaten, or shot, or gang violence.
Well, I couldn't give the head of state money because so many are corrupt, but I could say, “Okay, you need lights on the streets to change things? I'll turn on the lights. "
We have a contractor. We have the type of lighting. We paid directly to the contractor; it didn't go through the government. And violent crime has been greatly reduced in this city. Fewer people wanted to leave.
If it just could be that easy.
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A report by the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government had allocated nearly $ 4 billion in funding (including presumably Biden's lightbulbs) from 2013 to 2018 with no apparent impact.
However, suppose we made serious nation building efforts in Central America. Veteran immigration researcher David North has detailed how such a program could work, including data collection to effectively target aid, export promotion, and even a source of funding.
But even under the most optimistic projections, it would take decades for such efforts to pay off in the form of reduced emigration. In other words, Vice President Harris's efforts to address the root causes are completely unrelated to the border crisis.
In fact, development will likely lead to increased migration first before eventually leading to decrease. This has been mistakenly referred to as the “migration hump” because greater resources and information, combined with rising expectations, make leaving the company more possible and more desirable than it was before development.
We saw this after the passage of NAFTA, which President Clinton only got through Congress because Republicans in the House believed it was an immigration control measure. Instead, it sparked one of the largest waves of migration in human history.
Fly them over the border
The final pillar of the Biden government's plan to get the border crisis off the news is to simply fly enough Central Americans direct to the US so that people there just wait for their turn instead of to try to sneak across the border.
This is a revival of what began under President Obama as the central refugee / parole program for minors in 2014 at the start of the border crisis that continues to plague us.
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The hope was that this would give Central Americans, who had legal status in the US, a way to get their children here without having to hire smugglers to cross the border.
But it failed to dent the river – a smaller river than it is now, but rightly viewed as alarming. The main reason was that it was designed for children and other relatives of persons with Temporary Protection Status (TPS) or for other forms of temporary residence without a green card.
This is a problem because the vast majority of the people in the US who hire smugglers to bring their "unaccompanied" "minor" relatives from Central America are illegal aliens themselves.
Even when the Obama administration expanded the CAM program to include adult sons and daughters in Central America and even adult "caregivers" in 2016, the number of qualified individuals compared to total flow was still a drop in the ocean.
So far, Biden has only reopened applications from people in the pipeline when the program was suspended by the Trump administration in 2017. However, the State Department and Homeland Security have announced that they will soon be accepting new applications "with updated guidelines".
The form that updated guidelines could take is suggested in the comprehensive immigration law promoted by the White House, the US Citizenship Act of 2021. The law would amnesty virtually all illegal aliens, reduce enforcement, and double legal immigration. It also includes a three-part plan to bring Central Americans to the US, many of whom are outside of current legal immigration limits.
The three parts are refugee processing in Central America, probation (a type of provisional entry) for those on a waiting list for green cards, and a new unlimited green card category for any Central American minor with a parent in the US with a provisional law status such as TPS .
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But even this approach is unlikely to divert much of the flow at the border unless the definition of “refugee” is expanded beyond the limits of applicable law and reason or is offered to relatives of illegal aliens (both would be probation) challenged in court, probably successful).
The numbers under a Biden revival of CAM may be higher than under the Obama version, but probably not by much.
In the three years 2014-2017, around 3,100 were approved (another 2,500 in the pipeline when Trump pulled the plug) – that's barely the equivalent of a single day at the border last March or April.
* * *
When the 2014 border crisis hit the public eye, the Obama administration took some of these approaches.
And the 2015 numbers were indeed a little lower, largely due to enforcement by Mexico, and didn't start rising again until 2016 when the smugglers and the migrants who paid them found ways to circumvent the Mexican effort.
It is certainly possible that we will see another temporary decline like 2015, especially if the Biden government complies with Mexico's increasing demands.
But none of these answers are likely to have a lasting impact on the flow of migrants until the pull factors that illegally attract people here are addressed.
As long as there are loopholes in our laws and policies that make it attractive to infiltrate the border (especially with a child in tow), the crisis will continue.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
Mark Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a research organization in Washington, D.C.
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