For the last few months, the United States has confronted an unsustainable rush of people attempting to illegally cross our southern border.
In March, President Biden put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of dealing with the crisis. But Harris is in over her head. Even with an extremely friendly media, the veep often gets flustered and angry when pressed on the details — and the number of newcomers has only grown since Harris was tasked with stanching the flow.
Finally, last week, Harris went to Guatemala and pleaded: “Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”
But the message was too little, too late. For months, Team Biden had telegraphed that it wouldn’t, in fact, enforce our laws or secure our border. Migrants came en masse, because they believed Team Biden had invited them.
This isn’t some right-wing talking point.
In March, El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said that when candidates Biden and Harris vowed in the Democratic primary to give illegal immigrants free health care, it was an “incentive” for people to attempt the perilous journey to the United States. And last week, ahead of Harris’ visit, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei blamed Team Biden’s wink-wink pro-illegal-migration rhetoric for the surge.
Giammattei said, “The message changed, to: ‘We’re going to reunite families, we’re going to reunite children.’ The very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”
Yet the media, largely invested in covering for the president, seem uninterested in analyzing these comments. The prestige press is more interested in how the crisis might play politically for Biden than in whether the administration is to blame for the influx.
In April, a New York Times story focusing on the border noted, “For a relatively popular Biden administration, the recent surge of migrants at the southern border has emerged as a glaring vulnerability.”
Poor Biden, assailed by bad politics! But at least the media have come around to acknowledging that there is a surge, instead of echoing the administration’s line that nothing had changed.
In March, the president was still insisting the influx was typical: “There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year.”
Initially, the media attempted to back him up. A Washington Post news analysis in March was typical: “We analyzed monthly US Customs and Border Protection data from 2012 through February and found no clear evidence that the overall increase in border crossings in 2021 can be attributed to Biden administration policies.”
Echoing the administration, the Washington Post piece framed the surge at the border as seasonal, in essence arguing that 2020 had seen an unusual drop in crossings because of the pandemic, and 2021 returned us to typical seasonal patterns.
In January 2021, the CBP took 78,442 migrants into custody. In February, the figure climbed to 100,441. Then came the real spikes. In March, there were 173,337; in April, 178,854; May, 180,034. These astronomical numbers represent a massive increase in the number of migrants coming in over previous years. The 2021 figures are up 25 percent to 35 percent from pre-pandemic 2019. Indeed, the total for this year is on pace to be higher than we have seen in 20 years.
Ideas on the political stage have consequences, and bad ideas have bad consequences. A compliant media can only cover up those consequences for so long. It isn’t enough for the Biden administration to send Harris out to tell the migrants not to come. The enforcement and policies have to match the rhetoric.
The policies that seemed compassionate in theory have proved cruel in practice, stuffing children into crowded, filthy facilities and empowering trafficking cartels. The blame lies squarely with the White House, and Biden must now act, starting with restoring Team Trump’s more successful policies at the border.
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