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Manchin: You better believe we have a crisis at the border

And you’d better believe the Biden administration knows it. Thanks to Joe Biden’s campaign rhetoric and his first steps to allow asylum seekers to cross the border, migrants have new incentives to flood the border seeking entry to the US. The White House has gone back and forth ever since January 20th, at times distancing themselves from the Trump administration’s border policies while reopening the same facilities to deal with the flood of children that Donald Trump’s policies largely discouraged.

This morning, the new Secretary of Homeland Security wants everyone to know that the situation is “difficult,” but Alejandro Mayorkas insists it’s not unusual:

The situation at the southwest border is difficult. We are working around the clock to manage it and we will continue to do so. That is our job. We are making progress and we are executing on our plan. It will take time and we will not waver in our commitment to succeed. …

We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. We are expelling most single adults and families. We are not expelling unaccompanied children. We are securing our border, executing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health authority to safeguard the American public and the migrants themselves, and protecting the children. We have more work to do.

This is not new. We have experienced migration surges before – in 2019, 2014, and before then as well. Since April 2020, the number of encounters at the southwest border has been steadily increasing. Border Patrol Agents are working around the clock to process the flow at the border and I have great respect for their tireless efforts. To understand the situation, it is important to identify who is arriving at our southwest border and how we are following the law to manage different types of border encounters.

The only use Mayorkas makes of the word “crisis” is in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayorkas claims that single adults and families are being expelled “swiftly” under Title 42, part of the authority granted by the CDC to deal with the pandemic health crisis. However, the city of Brownsville has already reported that DHS has also been transiting illegal immigrants into their city who turn out to be COVID-positive, apparently without having ever tested them before release. Those immigrants were boarding buses for destinations unknown in the US.

If that doesn’t sound like a crisis to Mayorkas, it certainly does to Republicans — but not just Republicans. Senator Joe Manchin (D-VA) told CNN last night that the situation at the border is most definitely a crisis, and blamed it on messaging from the Biden administration:

Sen. Joe Manchin called the rapidly spiraling situation at the US border a “crisis” — the first prominent Democrat to label it as such.

Speaking to CNN Monday evening, Manchin (D-WV) discussed the surge in migrants heading toward the border, saying, “Whatever message was sent — it was sure interpreted the wrong way.”

“It’s a crisis,” he continued. “Oh, it’s a crisis.”

Manchin wasn’t the only Democrat calling it a crisis, either. Also last night on CNN, Jake Tapper noted that several Democrats want more action from Biden on the southern border, and are also using the C-word:

TAPPER: In our national lead now, a growing number of Democrats are asking the Biden administration to make urgent changes at the border amid a massive surge in the number of migrants.

Today, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, called on President Biden to end contracts with states and cities who use prisons to house migrants. Congressman Henry Cuellar who represents a district on the Texas-Mexico border this weekend urged the administration to more forcefully warn migrants in Central America not to make the trip.

On the Republican side, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy today toured the border and blamed the Biden administration’s less severe policies for the recent surge, a surge that has left many families desperate on both sides of the border as CNN’s Rosa Flores reports.

Two days ago, House Democrat Vicente Gonzales told CNN that the situation required the Biden administration to “really up their game.” Gonzalez blamed the previous administration for “deteriorated” border security, but even he tacitly notes that this surge is a much more recent phenomenon:

GONZALEZ: I haven’t in the past few weeks, but I have many, many times, obviously before. And I clearly understand what’s happening.

I talked to my Border Patrol agents, many of them are friends and neighbors, my cousin agents about what’s happening on our border and what’s really the surge that we’ve seen in the past 30 to 60 days, if you will, and it’s clearly concerning.

You know, we have to acknowledge that President Biden did inherit a system that’s been tarnished and deteriorated on our border, and he has to rebuild really fast. But I’m also concerned about sending the right message to migrants that are making this very dangerous trek from Mexico and many people —

WHITFIELD: Yes. How do you send a different message? Because the message that many are receiving based on the reporting that we’ve done is that people feel like, well, it’s the Biden administration, and so they’re more amenable to allowing people in. So how do you change that message?

GONZALEZ: Yes, very, very concerning. Well, I believe that like these tent cities or these tent camps that we have, could be placed in southern Mexico or in some other place where migrants show up and register for asylum there and have hearings and have expedited hearings, and know that if you don’t go through this process, when you get to our border, you’re not going to come in, and we have to have an orderly and safe process in place.

That gets back to Manchin’s point on messaging. Whatever other complaints Gonzalez may have had with the Trump administration, the message on illegal entry was both clear and consistent: it won’t succeed. Biden ran on messages of liberalizing asylum policies and processing within the US rather than Mexico. Is there any doubt that those messages had an impact on this behavior, and that Biden’s win touched off expectations of much easier and successful entry to the US?

People respond to incentives. Even the Biden administration knows that, at least now, which is why they’re trying to discourage people in their most recent messaging. But it won’t work, because people will see through it as the smoke screen it is. Biden won’t crack down on border crossings, in part because it’s not in him, and in part because the progressives in the party won’t let him.

If the media gave the “kids in cages” story the same emphasis now as they did over the past four years, perhaps that might push Biden into getting tougher on the border. As Byron York points out, though, the media doesn’t appear to be interested, with a couple of notable exceptions:

Is there something missing from press coverage of the thousands of unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the U.S. border from Mexico and are now in the custody of the Biden administration? Yes, there is something missing — pictures. …

The descriptions sound bad — and they are bad. But in the world of media and politics, what stirs popular outrage in a story like this is pictures. It’s one thing for Americans to read descriptions of young people in jail cells. It’s another thing for Americans to see photos and videos of young people in jail cells. Remember the uproar over the Trump administration’s so-called “kids in cages” policy? It was stoked by media organizations showing pictures of what was happening.

So now, the Biden White House appears to be determined not to let Americans see what is going on. The administration has not given the press access to the detention facilities. Nor has it given access to the nonprofit lawyers mentioned above, even though the administration is legally required to do so. On the migrant issue, there is a Biden Blackout.

Consider it part of the “largely gaffe-free” media narrative.