Migrant Surge Has Towns ‘Boarding Up Like a Hurricane’s Coming’
The humanitarian and security crisis on the U.S. border with Mexico is a direct result of the Biden administration’s failure — if not refusal — to put in place responsible immigration policies, Chad Wolf said Thursday on “Washington Watch.”
“This is a crisis that didn’t need to occur. This is a crisis not because of a lack of resources or authorities,” Wolf told host and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “This is a crisis because of bad policies that were put in place almost two years ago.”
Wolf, who served as acting secretary for the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump administration, said the federal government could begin to alleviate this crisis immediately if it had the will to do so.
Admitting there was not a quick fix to the issue of illegal immigration, Wolf said the Trump administration worked for three years to find a solution. “We figured out what worked,” he explained. “It’s this combination of not only deterring illegal behavior and holding people accountable, but it’s also making sure that we get those individuals who need protections under our asylum laws, the protections that they need quickly while rooting out fraud. It’s what ‘Remain in Mexico’ was all about. It’s what our asylum cooperative agreements were all about.”
He said crafting a workable plan requires hard decisions and leadership, something he said he doesn’t see from the current administration. Wolf said their plan seems to focus on blaming everyone and everything else but themselves.
“They’re going to blame Republicans. They’re going to blame the Trump administration. They’re going to blame seasonality trends. They’re going to blame countries to the south,” he offered. Wolf, who was also the government’s under secretary of Homeland Security for Strategy, Policy, and Plans from 2019 to 2021, said he doesn’t anticipate the Biden administration backing off the blame game.
Yet Wolf, who is chairman of the Center of Homeland Security and Immigration at America First Policy Institute, pointed out that the Trump administration left the incoming administration guidance on the policies and procedures they found effective. “We left them a playbook when we were transitioning,” he continued. “They have not been using that for two years.”
He said if the administration began implementing these strategies, there would be “noticeable differences” in as little as 90 days. Yet instead, he added, there has been “record-breaking numbers month over month” of undocumented migrants entering the U.S.
Even The New York Times recently acknowledged that it was decisions by the Biden administration that had encouraged the unprecedented flow of undocumented migrants across the border. The paper noted Joe Biden ran for president in 2020 “promising a more welcoming approach,” which led to a surge in illegal border crossings — an estimated 5.5 million migrants.
Wolf, who was in El Paso while speaking with Perkins on “Washington Watch,” said that during the week, the city’s streets were packed with people because of mass releases of migrants due to the lack of capacity at the area’s U.S. Customs and Border Patrol centers and shelters. “This is their plan that they’ve been executing for two years,” Wolf said.
Perkins noted the government’s open border policies are impacting more than just the towns along the nation’s southern border.
“What crosses the border here in El Paso or Brownsville or Del Rio or elsewhere, whether it’s the human trafficking, illegal narcotics, or the fentanyl crisis, it doesn’t stay here in south Texas or southern Arizona or Southern California,” Wolf said, agreeing with Perkins. “The thousands of individuals that were on the streets of El Paso earlier this week are no longer there. El Paso is a transit hub. It’s a way station of sorts. They don’t want to reside here. They all want to go to other communities in the United States. And so that’s where they are today.”
While Wolf said he understands the economic draw the U.S. presents to those stuck in poverty, crossing the border illegally is not the solution. “They’re abusing our system. They’re abusing the asylum system because they want to work,” he said.
“I don’t begrudge them that. They want a better life. But there’s a legal way to do that. The administration knows this, but they just don’t want to solve this crisis,” he continued, noting that not everyone coming into the U.S. is coming with pure motives.
“We continue to see known or suspected terrorists show up at the southern border, and those are just the ones that we catch,” Wolf said, explaining law enforcement officials are discovering more and more stash houses, including Airbnb homes and hotels where gang members are hiding out. “We are seeing them operate openly inside the United States. So there are some bad individuals, there is no doubt,” he continued.
His conversations with Border Patrol agents reveal their primary concerns are national security and public safety threats with the unchecked flow of people slipping into their country.
“The Border Patrol has been turned into a humanitarian service, and that is not the mission given to them by Congress. It is to stand on the line and protect the country from bad individuals and bad things coming into this country. They are not designed to be a humanitarian service,” Wolf stated.
Those who want to traverse the border are paying cartels a “pretty significant amount of money,” he continued. “It is a very dangerous journey. It’s abusive. The cartels don’t care about human life; they care about profit.” Wolf said the Biden administration’s policies — or lack thereof — are responsible for this disastrous situation.
“The type of damage, the inhumane nature of what the Biden administration has put these individuals through over the last several years is unspeakable,” he said. “It’s why we see more deaths in the desert and along that river than we have ever seen before. We have over 365,000 children that have come across that border in two years unaccompanied — that have no parents, that have no guardians, that are being trafficked into this country.”
“We have no idea where these children go,” he said. “The New York Times has said that the Biden administration has lost 85,000 children. The humanitarian toll in all of this sometimes gets lost. But it’s a big issue, and it’s what Border Patrol agents see every day.” An April 2023 feature article in The New York Times detailed the growing number of underage migrants involved in child labor.
Small towns that have been forced to contend with the unprecedented flood of undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. over the past two years are again in the crosshairs with the expiration of Title 42, a policy enacted during the COVID pandemic that allowed authorities to quickly return the migrants to Mexico, instead of allowing them to stay in the U.S. while waiting for courts to hear their appeals for asylum.
“We’re boarding up like there were a hurricane coming,” Victor Treviño, the mayor of Laredo, Texas, told CNN Thursday evening.
As Title 42 ended, the Biden administration issued new rules intended to stem the expected flood of individuals entering the country in search of asylum. The regulations, which have been criticized by immigration advocates and some in Biden’s own party, specify that migrants are ineligible for asylum if they entered the U.S. without seeking such protection elsewhere or online. Mexican authorities are declining to issue such paperwork to individuals traveling through Mexico from a handful of other Central American nations.
According to press reports, some Democrats are accusing the president of breaking his campaign promise that said that asylum-seekers would always be welcome in the U.S. The accusations have merit; the administration’s new rule is similar to one the Trump administration sought to implement but was denied by the courts.
Yet the media rushed to report the United States’s southern border was “relatively calm” as the new regulations were issued that sought to trim the number of people entering the country seeking asylum. Both migrants and those favoring open borders were caught off guard by the unexpected announcement of new rules.
House Republicans responded to the humanitarian debacle at the border by adopting H.R. 2, “The Secure the Border Act 2023,” May 11. The bill, which is unlikely to gain Senate approval, seeks to secure the border and confront illegal immigration. The legislation, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called the “strongest border security bill to come through Congress in more than 100 years,” would increase penalties for individuals who overstay their visas and increase the number of Border Patrol agents.
K.D. Hastings and his family live in the beautiful hills of Middle Tennessee. He has been engaged in the evangelical world as a communicator since 1994.