Home U.S Rep. John Katko: Biden's border crisis – here's what happened in record...

Rep. John Katko: Biden's border crisis – here's what happened in record time, and where this will lead

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In the week leading up to President Biden’s inauguration, caravans of migrants began making their way to the United States fueled by his rhetoric. This is the direct result of the policies Biden preached on the campaign trail and the executive orders implemented in the early days of his administration.  

Our Central American partners will only be able to hold the line on stopping these caravans for so long before efforts become futile. This is not hyperbole or alarmist talk but simply undeniable recognition that we are on the precipice of a full-fledged border crisis.  

Biden wasted no time pulling out his pen and unraveling policies critical to our national security, border security and immigration enforcement. From pausing deportations, to halting border wall construction and ending the “Remain in Mexico” policy, the president slapped an “open” sign on our border – during a global pandemic.  

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Chastising commonsense policies that maintained the integrity of our territorial borders, while implementing sweeping executive actions to roll back these effective programs and policies, has reinvigorated irregular migration.  

We don’t have to guess why they are coming. They have told us why. The very migrants who are traveling toward our southwest border and are poised to enter the country illegally have said in recent media interviews they were encouraged by Biden’s rhetoric and relaxing of Trump era policies.  

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We are already seeing frighteningly similar trends to those that led to the previous security and humanitarian crisis along the southwest border. Since October 2020, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) monthly encounters are mirroring rates not seen since the lead-up to the peak of the 2019 border crisis. In fact, CBP currently encounters an average of 3,000 individuals a day.  

For context, Jeh Johnson, former secretary of Homeland Security under President Barak Obama, said that during his tenure, 1,000 apprehensions a day was a “bad number.” According to CBP, family unit apprehensions have more than quadrupled in just the past two weeks and are trending upward.  

Border patrol agents in Texas have already been forced to reimplement “catch-and-release” – a sign of the seriousness of the surge.  

The practice of apprehending, issuing a notice to appear, and releasing into the interior of the country is a pull factor for individuals crossing the border illegally. On top of that, those being released haven’t been tested for COVID-19. If this doesn’t scream crisis, I am not sure what does.   

The situation at the border, combined with the raging pandemic, has created a perfect storm of security, humanitarian and public health concerns.  

Our dedicated law enforcement men and women on the front lines have been forced into an increasingly unsustainable situation.

President Biden ran on politically expedient policies for his base of loosening border security and enforcement measures, aimed at simply putting distance between himself and his predecessor. 

Since the start of the Biden administration, more than 1,500 migrants have been released into border communities without any information on whether they had COVID-19. While Biden and his administration claim to prioritize the management of the pandemic, they are failing to see the very real public health crisis unfolding before them as a result of their own actions.  

As the United States grapples with managing COVID-19, many CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities are operating at less than 30% capacity due to the need for social distancing. This poses a significant public health issue as large groups of migrants are arriving at the border with notably high numbers of families with young children. Will they all be released?   

Our dedicated law enforcement men and women on the front lines have been forced into an increasingly unsustainable situation – overwhelmed, with shrinking resources and elevated risk to their health and safety.  

The Biden administration talks of testing migrants arriving at the border in the future, yet nothing of ensuring a CBP and ICE personnel COVID-19 testing program is in place. Outstanding questions also remain about vaccine allocation to these frontline law enforcement officers. This is inequitable and wrong.  

The measures put in place by the Trump administration – so quickly eradicated – were implemented to relieve the situation at the border and address the crisis level irregular migration in 2019 due to immigration loopholes being exploited. Undoing them, especially during a pandemic, is an unforced error.  

What was a tragic humanitarian and national security crisis in 2019 is showing signs of a sequel, but this time with a public health crisis layered on top.  

While Americans are routinely told to shut down their businesses and stay home to combat the pandemic, we are sending the message to migrants to “come on in” without the knowledge of whether they pose a health or security risk. Moreover, as we are prioritizing taxpayer dollars toward getting Americans vaccinated and have already appropriated bipartisan funding for a previously agreed-upon border wall system, we should not risk being forced to divert future resources to clean up a preventable mess along the border.  

Enough is enough.  

I was joined by all House Homeland Security Republicans in making it very clear we are standing up to and calling out these misguided policies. 

These actions already have and will continue to have detrimental effects on our immigration system, border security and our country. This crisis could be preventable, but only if commonsense prevails.  

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We are calling on President Biden to put politics aside, reevaluate his border and immigration policy rollbacks, and consider the consequences of any further actions that adversely impact border security and immigration policy.  

If he truly is interested in finding common ground, we stand ready to work with him to uphold strong border security and immigration policies that protect the health, safety and security of the United States. Otherwise, this humanitarian crisis will fall squarely on his shoulders. 

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