Illegal alien apprehensions along the Southwest border exceeded the 100,000 mark for two consecutive months, and there’s no sign that these numbers will drop. Should apprehensions exceed 100,000 for the month of May, this will be the first time illegal immigration reached this unwelcome milestone — three consecutive months in a row — since 2006.
Largely fueled by those wishing to exploit our lax asylum laws, the current wave is now attracting people from well outside of the Northern Triangle counties of Central America. In fact, roughly 1 percent of the populations of Guatemala and Honduras have already entered the U.S. since September, 2018; and illegal immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are also crossing our southern border. Unfortunately, calls from the nation’s immigration enforcement officials for Congress to close several easily exploitable loopholes in U.S. asylum laws have largely fallen on deaf ears.
Thankfully, the Trump administration finally received a much-needed break from the courts. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (yes, you read that right) unanimously sided with the Trump administration, clearing the way for its so-called “Wait in Mexico” policy to go into effect. Under what is formally known as the Migration Protection Protocols announced last December, the United States can require migrants who cross into the United States illegally and then enter an asylum claim to return to Mexico while they await a decision.
Of course, that could be quite a wait, given the court backlog is approaching a caseload of one million. Realistically, it could be over a year until someone who enters the country illegally today finally gets their court date. So they will likely continue to come, by foot, bus and train.
Unfortunately, this current wave of illegal alien asylum seekers will likely not subside until buses full of Central Americans, whose asylum claims have been denied, start streaming back into Central America — signaling in very clear terms that the game is over and catch and release is dead. But in order for that to happen, the administration needs to make several key changes that, in addition to the “Wait in Mexico” policy, will finally stanch this illegal flow of humanity.
One, immediately set up detention facilities in the U.S. across the border from Mexico towns that will accommodate the waiting asylees. It’s realistic that some of the asylees are going to refuse to wait, and will once again enter the U.S. illegally. If that happens, authorities can hold those without children on this side of the border until their hearing dates.
Second, set up mobile asylum courts near the detention facilities. These mobile courts will allow asylees to have easy access to their court dates while ensuring that they remain in detention. Remember, what most of these asylees want more than a court date is their release into the interior of the country. Denying them that prize is the first step in breaking this copycat crime.
Finally, reverse the order for court hearings, so that those recently apprehended are now at the front, not the back, of the line. Since the entire asylum process can take several months, it could be mid-Summer before buses start returning to Central America full of claimants denied asylum.
Clearly, this problem won’t be completely fixed until Congress quits sitting on its hands, and actually passes relevant legislation. The White House is teasing an immigration-reform proposal that should address these issues. Similarly, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has stated that he also plans to introduce legislation to fix asylum loopholes.
But until then, current law and some quick maneuvering would allow the Trump administration to begin to reverse this unwelcome trend. If we wait for Congress to take on this challenge, it could well be after the 2020 election. For both humanitarian and public safety issues, we need a solution before then.
Dave Ray is director of communications at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.