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By Chad Wolf & Rob Law*
The American people can clearly see that the growing crisis on our southern border needs to end. However, this crisis will never end unless our Nation has a coherent strategy to solve this problem.
During the past two years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has sidelined career Border Patrol agents — the operational experts — and became the first administration in American history to refuse to enforce our immigration laws. As a result of the administration’s reckless decisions, there were more than a quarter million border apprehensions in December 2022— the highest single month ever recorded.
For context, that figure is over 141% higher than the December average during the Trump administration.
Now, instead of admitting failure and implementing a new strategy, the Biden administration is blaming the “broken system” and faulting Congress for refusing to pass its amnesty bill. Though new laws have the potential to help secure the border, the Biden administration already has the authority it needs to address these serious issues. By simply enforcing existing laws, the Biden administration could halt the record-breaking numbers of illegal alien apprehensions, including apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children and fentanyl trafficking at the border.
Here are 10 actions the Biden administration could take now to end the border crisis and disrupt the trafficking networks that are thriving under current policies.
- Build border wall infrastructure. The border wall is an effective physical barrier that protects the American people. The Trump administration listened to Border Patrol operators, who identified the optimal infrastructure, materials, and locations for a barrier in select areas along the Southern border. In contrast, the Biden administration has discarded the advice of law enforcement professionals and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars that were allocated to build the border wall. The failure to complete the wall and related infrastructure endangers Americans and further incentivizes illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl into American communities.
- Reinstate “Remain in Mexico.” The Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as “Remain in Mexico” or MPP) required non-Mexican nationals to wait in Mexico for their immigration court date instead of being released into American communities. The Supreme Court upheld the legality of this policy in June 2022, and its use effectively combatted asylum fraud and disrupted the smuggling and trafficking networks by denying economic migrants entry into the U.S.
- Restart the Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs). The ACAs, which were negotiated in 2019 and 2020, created a process for legitimate asylum seekers to apply for humanitarian relief closer to their home countries. The Trump administration provided additional support to fund and assist our Nation’s partners in these agreements, all while sending a message that asylum fraud must end. Combined with the successful enforcement of MPP, illegal immigration plummeted because the possibility of being returned to a third country rather than being released into the U.S. deterred asylum fraud.
- Replace Title 42 authorities with permanent provisions. Title 42 is an emergency public health authority that allowed the government to expel aliens at the border to stop the spread of infectious diseases. Title 42 is not a border security authority and was always meant to be temporary, but the Biden administration has no long-term strategy to counter those who exploit the asylum system after Title 42 ends. Going forward, they should replace Title 42 with permanent provisions, use expedited removal to the fullest extent allowed under the law, detain illegal border crossers, and quickly deport those with final orders of removal.
- Target the cartels. The Mexican cartels are some of the most dangerous threats to our Nation, and they have only become more powerful under the Biden administration’s open border policies. Not only do these bad actors put our frontline agents and officers at risk, but they also facilitate the stream of thousands of pounds of deadly fentanyl across our southern border. To defeat the cartels and stop this overwhelming flow of drugs, the Biden administration must use an all-the-above approach. This approach includes authorizing the use of military force, possibly designating the cartels as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and targeting them through the cyber and financial industries.
- Support border states. Although every state is negatively affected by the crisis, those along the southern border are overwhelmed by the influx of illegal aliens flowing into their communities. Instead of ignoring governors’ calls for help and vilifying their actions, the Biden administration should be a supportive partner as these states try to secure the border and keep American communities safe. DHS needs to focus resources on enforcement instead of on processing illegal aliens into the U.S. Focusing too much on processing is the wrong approach and is also arguably outside the scope of its statutory mission.
- Deploy the National Guard to the border. Strategically deploying the National Guard along the southern border works. The Border Patrol is overwhelmed, and most of its agents are conducting non-enforcement activities such as processing illegal aliens. Surging National Guard soldiers to the border for logistical and support services will free up Border Patrol agents to focus on capturing illicit drugs and arresting aliens trying to make it across the border.
- Promptly repatriate illegal aliens. DHS estimates that approximately 11 million illegal aliens live within our borders, though the actual number is likely much higher. Although the U.S. has limited resources, the government must deport the maximum possible number of removable aliens each year. Removal sends a clear message that illegal arrival will not be rewarded and frees up law enforcement officials to do their jobs effectively.
- Crack down on fentanyl. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death of young Americans, and the Biden administration has no excuse for its failure to take necessary action to keep this deadly drug off American streets. Securing the border is critical to eradicating fentanyl, but to completely solve this problem, the federal government needs to prioritize drug trafficking charges against the cartels to the fullest extent allowed under the law.
- Put human traffickers out of business. The humanitarian crisis at the border has resulted in an incalculable amount of suffering by migrants, especially unaccompanied alien children, who fall victim to human traffickers and smugglers due to the Biden administration’s open border policies. To help put human traffickers out of business for good, our Nation must ensure that bad actors convicted of trafficking offenses receive the harshest sentences possible under the law.
The American people want solutions, not excuses. We know from first-hand experience that these policies work. It’s past time to bring an America First approach back to 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 and Immigration at the America First Policy Institute.
Robert Law is the Director of the Center for Homeland Security and Immigration at the America First Policy Institute and a former senior official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Trump Administration.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and America First Policy Institute.