The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff has published a timeline of sorts which walks readers through the current border crisis and how we got here. Nearly everything he wrote has been said before but the timeline seeks to clarify how the Biden administration went from cautiously trying to avoid a border crisis they were warned about to denying it was happening despite evidence to the contrary.
The story starts during the transition when President-elect Biden talked about wanting to avoid the kind of surge we now have, saying “guardrails” were needed to avoid seeing “2 million people on our border.” But those notes of caution quickly faded away.
The prudent tone Biden’s team sounded in December was harder to detect on Inauguration Day, as the guardrails started coming off. Biden issued more executive orders and actions on immigration than any other topic, including a 100-day deportation moratorium and a halt to border wall construction…
Word soon spread that families with children younger than 7 years old were being allowed to enter the United States and released from custody. Families fitting that profile began rushing to that span of the border, where U.S. agents were already overwhelmed by soaring numbers of teens and children arriving alone.
In February, the administration announced it was ending agreements the Trump administration had put in place with Central American countries:
We will deliver on @POTUS’s vision of safe, orderly, and humane regional migration. As we suspend and terminate the Asylum Cooperative Agreements with the Governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, we will take concrete steps toward greater partnership & collaboration.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 6, 2021
The number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border began rising as did the number of families. Both groups were no longer being turned away, though the administration lied about the latter:
More migrant families were arriving, too, and with Mexico only taking back a limited number, the Biden administration released more and more parents with children into border towns and cities. Biden officials continued to insist they were expelling the majority of the families crossing the border. It wasn’t true; statistics show fewer than half were being sent back.
In March, the administration rolled out its compromise message, i.e. “don’t come now.” That didn’t help but as the surge continued, the Biden administration, relying on a misleading analysis published by the Post, claimed the influx was part of the normal seasonal variation.
At a March 25 news conference, Biden falsely described the increase as a seasonal norm, not a result of his policies or approach. “The truth of the matter is: Nothing has changed,” Biden said. “It happens every single, solitary year.”
But in early April the total apprehension figures for March became available. It was immediately clear what was happening was not seasonal variation but a 20 year high in border apprehensions and a record number of unaccompanied minors. The situation is so dire that the administration is now housing minors in convention centers and asking government employees to temporarily leave their jobs to help care for migrants instead.
So what comes next? The administration had predicted that the influx of migrants would grow this month to even higher numbers. Miroff reports that doesn’t appear to be happening, in part because the Biden administration made a deal with Mexico to trade tougher enforcement on Mexico’s southern border for millions of doses of coronavirus vaccine.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is on pace to take in about 17,000 teens and children this month, down slightly from March, and roughly 50,000 migrants traveling as part of a family group, according to the latest preliminary figures. The overall number of border arrests and detentions in April is projected to be roughly the same as last month, when 172,331 were taken into CBP custody…
After Biden officials last month agreed to send Mexico millions of surplus AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines, Mexican authorities announced new entry restrictions along its southern borders with Guatemala and Belize, while deploying soldiers and police officers to operate highway checkpoints.
But as much as the leveling off is good news, Miroff notes that still leaves us “on course to be one of the busiest months along the border in the last two decades.” If we continue at this pace for several more months, that will mean tens of thousands more unaccompanied minors who have to be put into HHS custody until they can be transferred to a parent or sponsor. But every week the number of kids flowing into that system exceeds the number leaving. How many more months of the new status quo can the system take before we reach a breaking point?