The anticipation of a more friendly administration and the early signs of loosening the application of immigration laws is beginning to appear as thousands of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are merging to form caravans headed to the United States.
On the first day of the new Biden Administration, a suite of executive orders was signed. Several deal specifically with immigration issues. These include the termination of former President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration along the U.S. southwestern border, which effectively ends wall construction. In another, Biden revokes Executive Order 13768 — which emphasized interior enforcement of immigration laws. Biden also lifted what his administration refers to as a “discriminatory ban on entry to the United States by primarily Muslim countries.”
As promised during the Biden campaign, a memorandum was signed by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske that implements a 100-day pause on deportations for most who entered the United States illegally prior to November 1, 2020. It also prioritizes how existing immigration laws will be enforced and freezes enrollment into the “remain in Mexico” program also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols.
These orders are in stark contrast to the approach to border security laid out during the Trump administration. However, one measure implemented in March of 2020 under the emergency powers granted to the Centers for Disease Control remains untouched. Title 42 Section 265 allows for the immediate expulsion of persons or property to avoid the introduction of a communicable disease from a foreign country. The process, implemented by Customs and Border Protection under this authority, allows most migrants entering the United States from Mexico to be swiftly returned and effectively bypasses all standard immigration procedures. Breitbart Texas has regularly reported how this process can take an average of two hours.
According to CBP, total enforcement actions (apprehensions) decreased 53 percent from more than 977,000 during FY2019 to just over 458,000 in FY2020.
During the migrant crisis in 2019, CBP personnel were overwhelmed by the magnitude of arrests occurring along the southwest border. Facing a shortage of adequate detention space, many facilities quickly filled and eventually became overcrowded. Multiple non-government organizations stepped up to assist in relocating released migrants away from the typically smaller border communities.
Although Congress approved a $4.6 billion in supplemental funding to improve conditions during the 2019 crisis, the bill specifically prohibited funding for additional beds. In short, the spending simply provided for diapers, baby formula, toothpaste, and other hygiene products in existing holding facilities. These facilities, mostly border patrol stations, are designed for the detention of persons for less than 24 hours.
Despite the new presidential actions, the emergency authority of the CDC is the last policy in place from the Trump administration – which still serves as a considerable deterrent for migrants.
Caught in the middle of the latest political swing are migrants — lured to U.S. borders on hopes that lax immigration enforcement awaits. There is little true compassion in conning men, women, and children to enter the U.S. illegally and through barren deserts or raging rivers to avoid detection.
A new migrant crisis is extremely likely should the Biden Administration discontinue the use of authority under the CDC’s emergency pandemic powers. If this happens, another humanitarian emergency is essentially inevitable.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio Sector.