Incentives and the Migrant Border Surge

Immigrants walk from Mexico to the United States on their way to await clearance by US Border Patrol in Yuma, Arizona, May 23.


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Migrants continue to cross the US-Mexico border in record numbers, and it turns out the Biden administration is aware that the incentive provided by its immigration policies is one of the reasons.

That’s the news in a report by the Axios website on Wednesday that the planned lifting of a border security policy prompted up to 50,000 migrants to prepare to enter the United States from Mexico this week. The migrants know the Biden administration plans to repeal Title 42, which has been the government’s main tool for turning away asylum seekers for the past two years. A federal judge stopped the annulment last week, but the Justice Department plans to appeal.

The bigger story is the source of the news: the Biden administration. Documents from Customs and Border Protection and other agencies admit that, according to Axios, migrants “hoped to run out the clock at Title 42.” In other words, the administration officials know that the repeal of Title 42 will result in an increase in the limits, but go ahead anyway. Migrants gathered in Juárez and other Mexican cities follow signals from the White House.

Since the cancellation of Title 42 was announced in April, the Department of Homeland Security has tried to convince skeptics that it had been trying to minimize a surge. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a report last month detailing efforts to “reduce the burden on surrounding border communities,” including by hiring law enforcement personnel.

One of his replacement policies for Title 42, known as “expedited deportation,” would apply to migrants held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. But ICE only keeps a small part of the cross-border commuters. It currently has about 20,000 migrants under its control, compared to more than 200,000 that Customs and Border Protection encounter every month. Title 42 has facilitated the removal of around two million border workers since it began in March 2020.

The US needs more legal immigration to meet economic needs and nurture human talent, but no government of memory has done more damage to this cause than the Biden administration. By sending a signal that it doesn’t want to enforce the border, it encourages more migrants to arrive and undermines public support for any compromise on immigration policy in Congress.

Review and Outlook: Two million migrants have been turned away under Title 42 authority, and President Biden has no backup plan to control immigration when the May 23 health measure ends. Images: Reuters/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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