The Associated Press just published the least surprising story of the month. A sudden surge of migrants crossing the southern border is threatening to overwhelm already crowded holding facilities:
Larger numbers of immigrant families have been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in the first weeks of President Joe Biden’s administration…
Measures to control the virus have sharply cut space in holding facilities that got overwhelmed during a surge of arrivals in 2018 and 2019, when reports emerged of families packed into cells and unaccompanied children having to care for each other…
In a statement last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said some of its facilities had reached “maximum safe holding capacity” and cited several challenges: COVID-19 protocols, changes in Mexican law and limited space to hold immigrants.
In response to a flood of unaccompanied minors, HHS is reopening a surge facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas which will have space for up to 700 teens. When this facility was first opened during the Trump administration, Democrats and activists compared it to a prison camp. This is from 2019:
Immigrant advocates and others liken such places to child prison camps and worry that the isolated location 110 miles (180 kilometers) from San Antonio, the nearest major city, will make it more difficult to find lawyers to help the teenagers with their immigration cases…
“All of this is part of a morally bankrupt system,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat.
The Carrizo Springs site closed less than a month after it opened in 2019, in part because the number of unaccompanied minors at the border dropped. Now that it’s reopening, will Democrats once again denounce it as part of a broken system? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, the best part of this Associated Press story may be this paragraph suggesting the reason for the sudden surge is a mystery:
There’s no clear driving factor for the increase in families and children crossing. Some experts and advocates believe more are trying to cross illegally now that Biden is president, believing his administration will be more permissive than Trump’s.
The reality is that there are always going to be factors pushing migrants out of Central America: Crime, lack of opportunity, a better living in the U.S. and most recently hurricanes. Under the Trump administration the situation became a clear crisis in 2019 as detention centers filled up. Democrats denied it for several months, but eventually things became severe enough that even the NY Times editorial board admitted there was a crisis.
As record numbers of Central American families flee violence and poverty in their homelands, they are overwhelming United States border systems, fueling a humanitarian crisis of overcrowding, disease and chaos. The Border Patrol is now averaging 1,200 daily arrests, with many migrants arriving exhausted and sick. Last week, a teenage boy from Guatemala died in government custody, the third death of a minor since December. As resources are strained and the system buckles, the misery grows.
Something needs to be done. Soon.
Something was done. The Trump administration put in place policies like “remain in Mexico” that made the long journey to the U.S. much less appealing. And the results were dramatic. Even before the coronavirus began shutting down the country, we had 8 straight months of declining apprehensions at the border. The crisis was stopped in its tracks.
And now President Biden plans to undo everything the Trump administration did to stop it. So it’s not hard to guess what happens next. We’ll see a return to the surge at the border that created the crisis in the first place. We’ve already seen new migrant caravans attempt to make their way to the border since Biden was elected. And now the AP is reporting holding centers are filling up. A facility briefly used to hold teens in 2019 is reopening. It’s really not hard to see where this is heading. Unfortunately, the Biden administration seems ready and willing to set the next crisis in motion.
My own guess is that the push toward the border is still being tempered somewhat by the coronavirus. But as the U.S. approaches herd immunity this summer, another factor putting a break on the surge will be gone. Of course things could change over the next several months, but as of this moment the whole situation looks like a very predictable slow-motion train wreck.
Update: The Washington Post is now reporting this too [emphasis added]:
The number of migrants taken into custody by U.S. border agents rose again in January, and has increased sharply since President Biden took office, according to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics obtained by The Washington Post.
Agents made nearly 78,000 arrests and detentions along the Mexico border last month, a 6 percent increase from December and the first time since 2013 that apprehensions rose between the months of December and January, a period that is typically a holiday lull.
Gee, I wonder why this is happening.