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By John Cooper*
President Joe Biden’s trip Sunday to El Paso, Texas, was a sanitized, cheap photo-op designed to make him appear competent. What the three-hour visit actually showed was a man too small to meet a moment of national crisis.
Perhaps that’s because the president is the one who caused it.
However, Biden’s visit to the border city also underscored his myriad broken campaign promises about securing the border and fixing America’s immigration system.
In reality, though, this president’s promises about the border were never anything more than a string of lies and deceits, told by a man who intended to open our borders on his first day in office.
Let’s look at a few lies directly from Biden’s campaign website.
1. “End the mismanagement of the asylum system, which fuels violence and chaos at the border.”
The United States long has been the most generous country in the world in welcoming those fleeing persecution, but Biden continues to be dishonest about the state of our asylum system.
More individuals were granted asylum by the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department during the four years of the Trump administration than under the last four years of the Obama administration. Total asylum grants in 2019 alone (46,508) were the highest for a single year in at least three decades.
However, our asylum system is backlogged, and Biden’s policies have made that backlog orders of magnitude worse.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, those applying for asylum must demonstrate they are fleeing persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
The Biden administration has flipped this long-standing understanding of asylum on its head, now arguing that anyone who crosses the border illegally but claims asylum has done so validly. Just last week at the White House, Biden reiterated this novel position.
Naturally, the number of “asylum-seekers” crossing the border has skyrocketed. Nongovernmental organizations on both sides of the border go so far as to coach illegal aliens on how to claim asylum so they won’t be deported.
Despite all this, upward of 90% of individuals who apply for asylum have illegitimate claims. Fleeing economic hardship or gang violence simply isn’t grounds for claiming asylum per existing law.
But the Biden administration has encouraged millions of people to flood the system with illegitimate claims. And they are flowing to the border in record numbers in response.
2. “Restore sensible enforcement priorities.”
Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have made a mockery of immigration enforcement.
In Biden’s first year as president, deportations hit their lowest level in the history of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, totaling a mere 59,011. In 2020, even with COVID-19 raging, ICE deported 185,884 illegal aliens.
Arrests of criminal aliens are down 63%. In 2020, ICE arrested around 65,000 dangerous criminal aliens—those guilty of crimes such as sexual assault, homicide, or robbery. Under Biden, ICE arrested around 5,900.
Under Biden, removal of illegal aliens who came to ICE’s attention because of a local criminal arrest has declined by 71%. Immigration arrests in the interior also dropped from an average of 148,000 from 2017 through 2019 to 74,082 in Biden’s first year.
In the first weeks of the Biden administration, Mayorkas set guidance for ICE that made it almost impossible for agents to detain or deport anyone here illegally unless they are potential terrorists, spies, or convicted felons.
Mayorkas also has said that being in the country illegally, a federal offense, was no longer by itself sufficient grounds for deportation.
Biden hasn’t restored sensible enforcement priorities. He’s obliterated them.
3. “Ensure that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel abide by professional standards and are held accountable for inhumane treatment.”
This campaign promise by Biden is particularly egregious, not because CBP and ICE agents have engaged in such conduct—quite the opposite, in fact—but because their commander in chief is the one guilty of unprofessionalism and cruelty.
In March 2021, in the early days of the border crisis, Biden held a press conference in which he bizarrely claimed that the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy left migrant children “sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande” with “nothing to eat.” He also claimed that the Trump administration sent minors back to Mexico to starve, clearly implying that Border Patrol agents and others were complicit in this action.
And, of course, Biden later in 2021 viciously attacked mounted Border Patrol agents who were falsely accused of “whipping” Haitian migrants while trying to prevent them from illegally crossing the river into Del Rio, Texas, promising that the agents “will pay” for simply doing their jobs.
No whipping occurred, as the Department of Homeland Security’s long delayed and politicized investigation concluded, but that’s little comfort to the agents who were taken off patrol, had their reputations ruined, and were subjected to administrative punishments.
While we’re talking about “inhumanity,” the Biden administration’s policies are the very definition. Under Biden’s leadership, more migrants (over 1,800) have been found dead on U.S. soil than ever before.
We know that at least 30% of women who make the journey to the border are sexually assaulted along the way. Millions more are making that perilous journey. Do the math.
Countless others die along the way from violence, disease, or lack of nutrition.
These individuals are coming because they’ve been promised entry to America. Biden’s policies are the incentive, and millions are suffering because of it.
If anyone has acted unprofessionally and inhumanely, it’s Biden, Mayorkas, and others in this administration.
It’s time they’re held to account.
*John Cooper is a senior advisor for communications at The Heritage Foundation.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and The Heritage Foundation.