On day one, President Biden started his presidency by declaring the “emergency” on the southern border over, halting border fence construction and loosening deportation policies — even for dangerous criminals. Those reckless actions sent the message to the “coyote” human smugglers and cartel drug traffickers in Mexico that the US border is now open.
It is reasonable for any nation to know who is crossing their borders and when and where they’re crossing. Enforcing legal immigration and travel along our southern border doesn’t have to be complicated or partisan, but we should never encourage illegal immigration because of the safety risks to our nation and the individuals making the dangerous journey to the border. It is especially ironic since our northern border is closed to all traffic from Canada because of COVID-19, but President Biden has proactively opened our southern border for illegal crossing.
In February of 2020 before COVID-19, we had just under 40,000 people detained at our southern border. One year later, in February of this year, we saw over 100,000 people detained. The only difference was the president and the policies of that president.
When I questioned Alejandro Mayorkas, now Secretary of DHS, I asked him what he would say to the new influx of migrants coming to our southern border since President Biden took office. He said he would tell them to wait and not come “yet.” But the cartels have already taken notice of the lax policies and are directing migrants this way again, including thousands of unaccompanied minors.
Last week, I visited the southern border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector to provide ongoing oversight of our federal law enforcement and other border operations there. As Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, I have a duty to follow up on our border operations and facilities.
In July 2019, I took a trip to the southern border to see for myself the conditions and operations after we saw a surge in unaccompanied minors, families and single adult men at the border. We visited holding facilities and rode along with border patrol at night where I witnessed the apprehension of numerous people, adults with children and single adults, attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally. We saw the ongoing fence construction — in its early stages at that time — and heard from border patrol agents why its construction is vital to their work.
In the last month, I have visited the border in Arizona and saw the giant gaps in the border fence that ridiculously sits 95-percent complete, but still unfinished, after President Biden’s construction halt. The border wall system construction plan appropriated and directed by Congress is to build the fence first, then install gates and finish the road along the fence so border patrol can access it. After that’s done, the plan is to install technology, including ground-based sensors to detect footsteps, then turn on lights and cameras.
Democrats have told Americans that fences are medieval and don’t work. They say we need technology. The interesting thing is that in Arizona, the fence is almost complete, but President Biden halted work right before the gates were put in place and before the technology was even installed. He prevented installation of the effective deterrent supported by many in his party.
President Trump expelled anyone who attempted to enter the country illegally in the last year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. President Biden changed that order and chose to only expel migrants who are 18 and older or family units. Since that change started, we’ve seen a surge of thousands of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross our border after what I’m sure is a terrifying journey. Most of the minors coming are 15 to 17-year-old males.
President Biden is also encouraging illegal immigration by making it known that if you come here illegally, we probably won’t make you leave. I have already pushed back — and so have the courts — on President’s Biden’s proposed deportation freeze, which would prevent the removal of the vast majority of illegal immigrants from the U.S. — including dangerous criminals — even after a court has said they must be removed. Despite the Biden administration’s ongoing legal challenges, the courts have told them that they must follow through on the court-ordered deportations.
The peak time for migrants to come to our southern border is just getting started, which is bad news since we already have more people illegally entering the United States than we have seen in 20 years. President Biden doesn’t want to call it a border crisis, but he has sent the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist with the growing humanitarian crisis, particularly the surge in children, coming in illegally. When you send in FEMA — it’s to respond to a crisis.
Border security is a national security issue. If fences were necessary to keep President Biden and Vice President Harris and their families safe at inauguration, why are similar fences along the border so controversial to keep all Americans safe?
James Lankford represents the state of Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate.