Border Democrat to Biden: Don't placate pro-immigrant groups during public health crisis

President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will hold a virtual meeting today. President Lopez Obrador was one of the last world leaders to congratulate Biden on his victory. Now Biden wants Lopez Obrador’s help with the surge of illegal migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Unlike many world leaders, Lopez Obrador had a good working relationship with Trump. They worked together to ease the surge in migration to the border. Biden is busy trying to undo policy like the Remain in Mexico agreement between the two countries. Biden’s cave to the open borders wing of the Democrat Party encourages migrants hoping to ask for asylum to come to the border. It isn’t just a border security problem, it’s also a public health problem. Trump used Title 42, a public health policy that allows the CDC to order border agents to quickly deport migrants to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus to border agents, migrants, and other people in the United States. Activists want Biden to halt that policy. Problems are arising at the border as a result of a change in Mexican law.

Mr. Biden is also seeking Mexico’s help to deter new arrivals at the border, a goal that is already facing challenges. His administration has kept in place a Trump-era policy that empowers border officers to rapidly expel migrants to Mexico, a move administration officials purport to be necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in detention facilities and border communities.

But a recent change in Mexican law that prohibits the detention of small children in the state of Tamaulipas has forced U.S. Customs and Border Protection to return to the practice of releasing migrant families at bus stations in certain areas of neighboring South Texas, a pivot that has prompted concern among leaders in the border agency. Most migrant families continue to be expelled to Mexico or Central America.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, is urging Biden to keep in place the Trump administration’s policy meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus at the border. His district extends from the Rio Grande to the suburbs of San Antonio. Cuellar supports Biden but not his lax immigration policies.

Cuellar hopes the administration continues using a Trump-era public health order to quickly expel migrant adults and families, at least during the pandemic. Activists have called for Biden to end the use of the policy, called Title 42.

He said smugglers will likely use the shift in immigration tactics from the Trump to the Biden administration to convince migrants to come to the U.S. “The bad guys know how to market this,” Cuellar said.

Some immigrants are being allowed into the country without getting a COVID-19 test first — a concern for some non-governmental organizations caring for them, Cuellar said.

He complained about a contradiction between releasing some unauthorized immigrants into border communities while keeping legal, cross-border travel closed. Many local businesses depend on Mexican shoppers for 50% to 75% of their sales, he said.

Cuellar is concerned about the impact on his constituents and local hospitals, already overcrowded. He is not the only Texas Democrat sounding the alarm to the Biden administration. Mayor Bruno Lozano of Del Rio sent a video message to Biden during the Texas winter storm with a plea to stop releasing illegal migrants into his community. The legal residents in that border town are experiencing their own problems in the storm’s aftermath.

One topic that will likely come up during the meeting between Biden and Lopez Obrador is a request for the United States to share its vaccine supply. With so many Americans unable to receive vaccinations yet, it is not something that will go over well with the general public right now.

Biden is open to discussing the matter as part of a broader regional effort to cooperate in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic but will maintain as his “number one priority” the need to first vaccinate as many Americans as possible, a White House official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Lopez Obrador has been one of the most vocal leaders in the developing world pressing the richest countries to improve poorer nations’ access to the vaccines. He has called the current distribution system “totally unfair.”

“We fully expect that to come up,” the White House official said when asked whether Lopez Obrador was likely to raise a request for shared vaccines when the leaders hold their first virtual meeting since Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

A Mexican official said Lopez Obrador would ask for a loan of the U.S. vaccine supplies, to be paid back when vaccines that Mexico has contracts for are delivered later in the year.

Biden has already increased funding for international efforts to combat COVID-19. Americans are not going to respond favorably if Biden moves too quickly to share what vaccines are available with other countries. It is something that will have to be addressed, though, because once the border opens more to allow a return to business between the borders, it will be crucial to ensure that Mexico is taking measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus across the southern border of the United States.

Good luck, Rep. Cuellar. Border Patrol agents project a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May. The surge toward the border is real and was entirely predictable. Biden’s ploy to appear more humane and welcoming than the Trump administration is backfiring. Public officials in border towns are not going to quietly suffer the increased burdens, regardless of their political party.