Border Patrol officials in the Texas Rio Grande Valley announced a new sector record for the apprehension of migrants in a 24-hour period. The apprehensions, which were recorded on Thursday, totaled nearly 4,000 throughout the day. Ironically, the record-breaking apprehensions occurred on the very day Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the area to get a firsthand look at conditions on the ground in South Texas.
Not surprisingly, Mayorkas’ public comments at the conclusion of his visit did not adequately express the dire situation facing not only the Border Patrol struggling to deal with an overwhelming influx of migrants. He also failed to address the burden placed on border communities that now must expend limited financial resources to deal with the increasing surge of migrants into the country.
With nearly 4K encounters in one day, #RGV agents apprehended the highest number in recorded history.
— Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings (@USBPChiefRGV) August 13, 2021
Mayorkas failed to address the impact of thousands of migrants being detained in inhumane conditions due to the sheer volume of traffic crossing the southern border — a level that has overwhelmed available resources at all levels of government.
“We’re facing a serious challenge at our southern border, and the challenge is, of course, made more acute, more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Secretary Mayorkas said in his public remarks. “It has also been made more difficult because of the fact that the prior administration dismantled our asylum system.”
The record apprehensions noted in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in South Texas, break established historical figures for an agency that dates to May 28, 1924. On that date, then-President Calvin Coolidge established the United States Border Patrol. The agency was established to enforce immigration law between established ports of entry along the southwest border. The record-breaking number of apprehensions today has as much to do with Calvin Coolidge as it does with Donald Trump.
Unlike the overwhelmed humanitarian care organization of today, the primary mission of the Border Patrol, when it was established, was to enforce immigration laws. It was not to welcome, receive, and care for thousands of migrants illegally entering the country daily at the invitation of a new presidential administration. The current administration forced the agency to neglect its responsibility to the American public to safeguard its borders as a national security agency.
In Secretary Mayorkas’ political deflection of who might possibly be responsible for the deplorable conditions wrought upon border communities and the migrants themselves, he chooses to target the previous administration’s handling of immigration affairs. Rather than acknowledge the current border crisis is quickly getting out of control, Mayorkas chooses to engage in political deflection that is self-serving and protective towards an out-of-touch administration.
In 2019, international agreements, known as Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACA), were reached between the United States and Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The ACAs required each nation to accept nationals of the other countries while asylum claims were being heard in the United States. The Migrant Protection Protocols were also initiated in 2019 and required many seeking political asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico as the asylum process made its way through the courts. These initiatives helped to reduce illegal immigration levels by more than 50 percent during the following year.
Since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2021 (October 1, 2020), apprehensions of migrants skyrocketed from 400,651 in all of FY2020 to more than 1.2 million. This represents a threefold increase in ten months. The previous high-water mark for apprehensions was achieved in FY2000 when more than 1.6 million migrants illegally entered the United States. At the current pace of nearly 200,000 apprehensions per month, the all-time annual record is under serious threat of being broken as well.
A blueprint for failure on the immigration front has been clearly created by this administration. The results should come as no surprise. President Biden immediately canceled the Migrant Protection Protocols on his first day in office. This move ushered in more than 25,000 migrants with pending asylum claims previously required to remain in Mexico as their claims, many that would likely be denied, moved through the court system.
The Biden administration immediately terminated the Asylum Cooperative Agreements as well. The cancellation of MPP, the end of the ACA agreements, and the rhetoric announcing potential large-scale amnesty legislation provided fuel to an immigration fire that has quickly spun out of control. A system that once deterred migrants from making an arduous journey to the United States was quickly destroyed.
The system of agreements and policies adopted under the Trump administration intended to reduce illegal migration was viewed as harsh by the far-left faction of the Democratic party. However, it brought some level of calm in the wake of the migrant caravan crisis of 2019. By discouraging illegal immigration, the policies prevented thousands of migrants from being victimized by human traffickers. They kept many from dying of heat exhaustion on treks across deserts, prevented many from drowning as they crossed the Rio Grande River, and kept many unaccompanied children from being victimized and trafficked.
Sadly, I know what our Border Patrol agents, local communities, and non-government organizations are going through. Much of America will never have to care for, feed, and provide hospital watch over migrants injured in car accidents, suffering from heat exhaustion, or incurring the wrath of COVID-19. As a Border Patrol agent for more than 32 years, I saw firsthand what migrants endured to have even the slightest odds of achieving what many in our country now take for granted.
In previous migrant surges, politics pushed common sense aside. Funding to properly care for the onslaught of migrants at the southern border was held hostage by battling political parties in Congress. Neither side wanting to cede a victory to the other, a shoestring budget was relied upon to deal with migrant influxes that varied year to year. Operational funds were used to care for and feed the migrants arriving with little help in sight from legislators.
What also eludes the Border Patrol today is adequate staffing and funding for an agency forced to care for thousands of people who are kept in sub-standard conditions. Border Patrol agents do not make this choice. Despite criticisms, funding to provide a warm bed and adequate meals for the arriving migrants is not within their budget. The politics of providing funding for adequate detention space is beyond what Congress is willing to sit down to rationally discuss and determine.
A solution to the current situation along the border appears to have eluded the capabilities of the current government and administration. The likelihood of even a remote chance of mutual progress to both major political parties is becoming ever more elusive.
What is not elusive is the need to humanely care for tens of thousands of human beings arriving in our country daily. Also not elusive is the evidence that we, as a nation, have not been able to adopt an organized, efficient immigration policy that treats humans fairly and protects our national interest simultaneously.
Sadly, based upon my experience in the immigration arena, this record for daily apprehensions will most likely soon be broken. Will it allow for any lessons to be learned?
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, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.