Tragesser: Biden Just Ended the National Emergency at Our Southern Border Despite an Impending Border Crisis

Honduran migrants hoping to reach the U.S. border walk alongside a highway in Chiquimula, Guatemala, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. Guatemalan authorities estimated that as many as 9,000 Honduran migrants have crossed into Guatemala as part of an effort to form a new caravan to reach the U.S. border. (AP Photo/Sandra …
AP Photo/Sandra Sebastian

Last week, President Biden signed an executive order suspending the national emergency at our southern border. This emergency declaration helped provide funding and resources to help build more than 450 miles of border wall.

With immigration officials reporting record surges of migration as well as successes of the new wall system, the suspension is a significant misstep for the Biden administration and has also drawn legal concerns.

The southern border continues to experience large waves of migration and a fortified border barrier is necessary more than ever.

Recent migration trends at our southern border should cause immediate concern. Border apprehensions have climbed every month since April even with COVID-19 travel and border restrictions. Last month’s apprehension totals were the largest for December in roughly two decades.

These numbers are only likely to surge now that the Biden administration is in the Oval Office. A 9,000-person caravan has already formed  to take advantage of the administration’s radical immigration proposals—including a mass amnesty and deportation freezes. It was blocked — but several hundred thousand other migrants could migrate to the U.S. shortly in response to the change in administration.

With these alarming figures, a border wall remains an effective mechanism to help secure our southern border.

The new border wall system built under the Trump administration has vastly assisted immigration officials along the border. In the San Diego Sector, 12 miles of new border wall freed up U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) manpower by 150 agents, where they were redeployed to fill resource gaps in other areas of the border. In the Yuma Sector, the new wall helped plummet apprehensions by over 87% in FY 20 compared to FY 19. In the Rio Grande Sector, a region where little wall infrastructure previously existed, the wall has helped funnel drug smugglers and their vehicles into areas where authorities are more likely to apprehended them.

Abruptly stopping construction of the border wall would also create financial strains and raise legal questions.
Congress has already appropriated federal funding for more than 300 miles of new border wall and not following through with this project would waste billions of taxpayer money and lay off thousands of American workers. Stoppage at this point would represent a sunk cost.

Even more concerning is that the stoppage is also likely illegal. Experts suggest that this order represents a presidential overreach as the president cannot halt projects for which Congress has already appropriated funding and must carry out the approved funding.

As of today, all border wall construction has been halted at our southern border. It is abundantly clear that the president is ignoring startling migration trends, recommendations from experts who work at the border, and is content wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money, while also abruptly terminating thousands of American jobs.

President Biden claims that there is no emergency at our southern border anymore— the pretext for repealing the national emergency declaration. But could the so-called absence of an emergency be a direct result of all the immigration measures the Trump administration put in place? It’s likely.

It remains to be seen how President Biden intends to address an impending border crisis with no new border wall and a dismantling of other border security initiatives. Will he remain silent and let the crisis develop, or will he maintain the largely successful policies he inherited, even if it means angering the radical wing of his political base?

In the best interests of the country, Biden must allow construction of new border security fencing (originally authorized by legislation he voted for when he was in the Senate) and continue policies that have averted a full-blown border crisis.

 

Matthew Tragesser is press secretary at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

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