Just when you think it can’t get any worse, the crisis at our southern border keeps accelerating.
Last month, the mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas, a border city with just 28,000 residents, declared a state of emergency over the surge of thousands of migrants crossing into his community, more than 2,000 a day. Border Patrol sources report that within one 24-hour period last month, more than 10,000 migrants were encountered at the border.
The situation is deteriorating so rapidly that previously pro-immigration “sanctuary cities” like New York are pleading for the federal government to address the crisis.
According to New York Mayor Eric Adams, his city has seen 113,000 migrants just in the last year. While that seems a strikingly large figure, consider that this is approximately the same number of migrants that we had to deal with in Yuma, Arizona, in 2021, and Yuma has only around 100,000 residents in the entire community.
The immigrant situation in his city has become so acute that several weeks ago Adams took an unprecedented tour south of the border through three Latin American nations to convince anyone considering migrating to his city not to come. “There is no more room in New York,” stated the mayor. “Our hearts are endless, but our resources are not.”
One presidential candidate has recognized that the current course is unsustainable. After coming to Yuma and seeing the situation for himself this summer, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. realized the scope of the humanitarian disaster at the border, and has called for decisive action to do something about it. His proposals to address the crisis transcend the usual partisan polarization on the immigration issue and should garner broad support across the political spectrum.
One of his central discoveries when he visited the border was that the “no more wall” executive order that President Biden signed upon coming into office not only halted construction of President Trump’s wall, it defunded a whole system of border security including cameras, lights, motion detectors, sensor equipment, and access roads, leaving agents with none of the tools they need to do their job of securing the border.
Kennedy recognizes that sealing the border, far from being an impossible task, is eminently achievable in a humane way with the right personnel, the right tools, and the right technology. In addition, he proposes getting on top of asylum claims. Currently, migrants are simply walking across the border in many areas and claiming asylum.
Even though only 15% of asylum claims are normally approved, they know that as a result of the millions of backlogged cases, they will be processed and transported into the country before any hearing to determine the validity of that claim, if a hearing ever takes place at all.
Kennedy argues that if claimants to political asylum understood that their case would be determined swiftly at the border before being granted entry into the country, most would skip the considerable risk and expense of entrusting themselves to cartels to make the journey. His most innovative idea is to make free passport cards available to every U.S. citizen, which would immediately make employers accountable for hiring people illegally.
This alone, he argues, would stem the flood of illegal immigration, because if you can’t find a job here, there is no incentive to take the considerable risk of crossing the border illegally.
It’s clear that agreement is becoming more widespread that the current levels of illegal crossing into the country are unsustainable. Border Patrol reported more than 1.6 million illegal crossings between October 2022 and July of this year, according to federal government data. In 2022 alone, the number of illegal crossings hit a record 2.2 million. And this does not even include the hundreds of thousands of migrants the Department of Homeland secretly approved for flights directly into U.S. airports through a previously undisclosed “parole program” over the last year, according to official documents recently obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
In my more than two decades as a senior border patrol agent, I never witnessed anything like what we are seeing today. My former colleagues find it literally mind-boggling that this humanitarian catastrophe is continuing at the level we are now witnessing. With the current policies in place, I don’t see it getting better.
Many in the border patrol have come to the reluctant conclusion that the Biden administration, for their own political reasons, doesn’t want it to get better. The compassionate, humanitarian approach Kennedy suggests might very well go a long way toward healing the rancorous partisan divide roiling American society over the vexed issue of immigration.
Chris Clem is a former chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, who retired last year after 27.5 years of service.
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