A judge this week temporarily delayed the Biden administration’s announced intention to lift Title 42, the public-health measure that allows the Border Patrol to turn away illegal border-crossers without a hearing.
In a year of record illegal immigration (with more than 200,000 illegal-immigrant “encounters” last month alone), Title 42 is the only thing preventing today’s Biden Border Crisis from turning into tomorrow’s Biden Border Catastrophe.
But despite the judge’s temporary reprieve, Title 42 is going to end at some point, just like other COVID restrictions.
And then what?
Many critics of ending Title 42 — both Republicans and Democrats — have hit the White House for not first developing a plan to deal with the inevitable surge (on top of the current surge) in illegal crossings. Actually, there is a plan — it just doesn’t deal with the problem you think.
When most people imagine an appropriate response to the post-Title 42 tsunami at the border, they naturally think of ways to stop people from coming across. In other words, the problem they think needs to be addressed is the excessive number of foreigners trying to get in.
But President Biden’s administration is opposed to all the measures that might address that problem — it’s against Remain in Mexico, against keeping illegal immigrants in detention, against deporting illegal immigrants who are here, against even using ankle monitors to keep track of them.
To the White House, the problem is not illegal immigration. It’s how to hide it.
A surge in crossings at the border is OK with Biden and his people; what they fear is how it will look to the public: the additional disorder, the crowding in holding centers, the news photos like those of Haitians camped under the bridge in Del Rio, Texas, last fall. It’s a political problem, not a policy one.
And so the White House plan for a post-Title 42 border isn’t focused on how to prevent the illegal flow but, in the words of press secretary Jen Psaki, how to “more efficiently process migrants” into the United States.
The Biden administration doesn’t want to limit illegal immigration — it wants to make it run more smoothly.
This is not contradicted by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ seemingly tough statement in early April that after Title 42, “those unable to establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.” That’s because this administration believes that virtually all of humanity has “a legal basis to remain in the United States.” Almost any claim of persecution — no matter how flimsy or unfounded or unconnected to the requirements of the law — is reason enough to be “processed” “efficiently” into the United States. It doesn’t matter whether the illegal immigrant actually follows through in applying for asylum, or shows up for hearings, or leaves when his claim is rejected — in the eyes of the Biden administration, he had “a legal basis to remain in the United States” and so was let in.
Administration critics need to make clear that we’re not facing a question of competence or good government. It’s not that the administration hasn’t thought through what needs to be done when Title 42 is lifted — it’s that Biden and his party have a view of immigration that is radically at odds with that of the vast majority of Americans, one that does not accept the numerical limits passed by Congress as legitimate.
During a border tour this week with Republican colleagues, Texas Rep. Chip Roy correctly said Title 42 is “a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.” I’d add that the debate over ending Title 42 is also a Band-Aid, obscuring the deeper problem.
The disagreement with the Biden administration is not over means but over ends — not how to enforce the border but whether it should be enforced at all.
Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
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