By Chad Wolf*
This week, as many Americans are focused on spy balloons and other mysterious objects in the sky, an equally serious breach of national security continues unchecked at our nation’s southern border. An overwhelming flow of migrants and deadly drugs are entering the United States from Mexico, and the Biden administration has been slow to take action.
This crisis demands action and transparency from the Biden administration, but unfortunately, both are sorely lacking at this point. In response, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a delegation of lawmakers will visit the border Thursday to shine a light on the extent of this humanitarian and security crisis.
The Department of Homeland Security revealed that “encounters” with illegal immigration at the southern border were down more than 40% in January compared with December.
On Friday, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection even boasted that this month-over-month decrease “clearly illustrates that new border enforcement measures are working.”
Biden Downplays Severity of the Border Crisis
However, a closer look at the reasons for the decrease and recent actions by the Biden administration shows that the administration is working to cover up the severity of the crisis.
The monthly border numbers must be put into perspective. Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 250,000 people at the border with Mexico in December, the highest monthly total ever recorded. Although the almost 210,000 apprehended in January represent a decline of nearly 100,000, it still surpasses the Biden administration’s apprehensions from January 2022.
Last month’s border apprehensions also represent a fivefold increase over the average January during the Trump administration.
Calling this a success is like going from speeding 100 miles per hour through a school zone down to 80 miles per hour and claiming you are following the law. Any attempt by the Biden administration to frame this as a win is both reckless and absurd.
That is just the beginning of the misdirection. The new plan the Biden administration announced in early January is designed to make the official border apprehension numbers decline, which will help create the mirage of a secure border. Specifically, DHS is now allowing 30,000 migrants per month into the country from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela through the use of the secretary’s parole authority.
Starting with January’s apprehension numbers, these 30,000 per month, or 360,000 over the course of the year, will no longer be included in the border apprehension numbers. As a result, the administration will be reporting lower numbers than the total of asylum seekers actually entering American communities.
Additionally, in January, DHS started a process that could waive in tens of thousands of visa-less people through ports of entry if they make an appointment through the administration’s phone app. Just as with the parole program, these migrants might no longer be included in the monthly numbers.
This plan simply diverts the course of illegal immigration rather than deterring it. Nevertheless, the result is the same: a mass release of people who did not follow the normal immigration process into American communities.
Instead of confronting the issue head on by changing policies, the Biden administration is disguising the extent of its failed strategy by making the official numbers disappear.
Aerial Surveillance is Reduced on The Border
But that’s not all. The estimates of known “gotaways,” those detected making it across the border without being intercepted by Border Patrol agents, are about to plummet as well. Customs and Border Protection has been reducing the number of aerial surveillance flights, known as aerostats, at the southern border.
This decision has major implications because aerial monitoring is a critical tool to guide Border Patrol agents in pursuit of illegal immigration and illicit narcotics. This monitoring is also used to detect and track the paths the gotaways take to bypass Border Patrol agents. Without this observation tool, reported gotaways will decline but the problem will persist.
The Biden administration’s justification for pulling back on the aerial mission – a lack of funding – is disingenuous. DHS recently received about $2 billion for border security efforts. As a result, DHS has the resources to maintain these effective surveillance missions, but the administration chose to divert the money to build temporary facilities at the border and to fund the processing of migrants.
Unfortunately for the American people, the administration’s decision to divert this money and its refusal to enforce immigration law are what created this humanitarian and security crisis.
When Speaker McCarthy and the congressional delegation arrive at the border Thursday, they must look beyond the carefully scripted visuals the administration wants them to see. By demanding truthful answers from Homeland Security leaders, the delegation can help expose the real crisis at the border.
*Chad Wolf is the former acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and executive director and chair of the Center for Homeland Security & Immigration at the America First Policy Institute.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and America First Policy Institute.