‘States Have No Choice’: Officials Grapple with Border Surge amid Listless Federal Response
On Friday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claimed on “NBC Nightly News” that “the border is secure.” The statement comes as the number of apprehensions at the U.S.’s southern border has spiked to record highs, with an additional surge expected in the coming days when Title 42 expires. In response, border state officials say they are preparing to take immigration enforcement into their own hands due to a lack of effort from the federal government.
On Sunday, reports surfaced that migrant apprehensions had reached 9,000 per day, significantly up from the previous high during Joe Biden’s presidency of 7,200 per day and “the second-highest month in Border Patrol history.” Indications are that the surge will only increase in the coming days due to the expiration of Title 42, which is set to end on May 11. Title 42 is a pandemic-era policy that allowed border officials to quickly expel migrants. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle are expressing frustration over what they say is a lack of preparation for the expected surge on the part of the White House.
“[W]e need the Biden administration to act, and to act fast,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). “I’ve heard directly from leaders in our border communities … [who] are simply unequipped to handle the surge of migrants that are expected when Title 42 ends.” Senator Krysten Sinema (I-Ariz.) was equally concerned about the Biden administration’s actions, or lack thereof. “Just today [Sunday], I was on the phone with a sheriff of Cochise County. He has gotten no information from the Department of Homeland Security or the federal government about what the flow is going to look like, about what they can expect for processing in terms of how long it takes to process migrants. He’s got no information.”
In response to the Biden administration announcing that 1,500 active-duty troops would be deployed to the border to “serve in administrative roles and not perform any law enforcement function,” Sinema was blunt. “It is a border of over 2,000 miles … so 1,500 troops isn’t gonna get the job done. That’s just the reality.”
The concerns come as a new report reveals that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are “overwhelmed, overworked and frustrated” and “stretched to their breaking points,” with almost 90% of employees in both agencies saying they do not have enough staff to handle an additional migrant surge. The report noted that despite “increasing border encounters and travel volume … staffing levels have remained the same, with CBP and ICE using details and overtime to temporarily fill staffing gaps along the Southwest border.”
As a result, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced Monday that a new “Texas Tactical Border Force” made up of 545 specially trained Texas National Guard troops will be deployed at “hotspots along the border to intercept, to repel and to turn back migrants who are trying to enter Texas illegally.” The governor said that the troops will be used to strengthen Operation Lone Star, which has already repelled 37,000 individuals attempting to cross the border illegally, arrested 27,000 criminals, including “cartel gang members” wanted for crimes including murder, and seized “enough fentanyl that would have been enough to kill every man, woman, and child in the United States.”
On Friday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” Rep. Nathaniel Moran (R-Texas) further emphasized the need for border states like Texas to assume responsibility for protecting the border.
“[H]ere in Texas, for the past couple of years, there’s been lots of talk about do we actually look at the U.S. Constitution and say, ‘Is this an invasion?’” he noted. “Luckily, Governor Abbott in the last year declared this is, in fact, an invasion across our borders. … The Constitution makes clear that it should be a federal operation for us to secure our borders. But when the federal government is unwilling to do so, states have no choice.”
“States like Arizona and Texas are the ones that are leading the way,” Moran concluded. “But I can tell you here in Texas … we recognize that there is a need to fill the gap where the federal government has failed over and over again.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.