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OPINION

Playing Politics With National Security is Never A Good Idea

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

After more than two years it appears to still be too much to ask for consistency with federal COVID policies. While on the one hand, the Biden Administration continues to fight in court to protect its federal employee vaccine mandates and extends mask mandates on airplanes, on the other it is removing an order that helps keep illegal immigrants who may be infected from entering the country.

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Even without this apparent contradiction, the Biden administration’s decision to rescind Title 42 on May 23 (officially known as the CDC’s Order Suspending the Right to Introduce Certain Persons from Countries Where a Quarantinable Communicable Disease Exists issued pursuant to Title 42 of the U.S. Code) is controversial, to say the least. This order allows the federal government to remove illegal immigrants who cross the border and could be infected with COVID-19. Under the measure, the majority of asylum seekers apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border have been expelled immediately back to Mexico or their country of origin, without the chance to file asylum claims.

As of March 2022, officials had carried out over 1.7 million expulsions of aliens under Title 42, which was originally implemented in March of 2020. Immigration experts and a bipartisan group of lawmakers predict rescinding Title 42 will lead to a huge surge of illegal aliens crossing the border, even further overwhelming the U.S. Border Patrol officers and facilities. The administration is preparing for a worst-case scenario of as many as 18,000 migrants arriving daily after Title 42 is lifted, up from an average of about 5,900 in February. This will be on top of the fact that there were more than 1.7 million encounters in FY 2021, and already more than a million encounters in the first six months of FY 2022.

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So why the rush to rescind Title 42, you ask? It’s not like the COVID-19 emergency is gone, after all. The mask mandates are still in place, for example. Could it be all about electoral politics?

If so, playing politics with national security is never a good idea. Right now, the U.S. Border Patrol is overwhelmed, with the 6000 plus illegal aliens arriving each day. Growing this number, possibly up to 18,000, will make things exponentially worse. This will mean more migrants to be housed and fed and, in many cases, ferried throughout the nation. Indeed, in preparation for this, Customs and Border Protection is prepared to more than double their air and bus transportation capabilities and beef up CBP agents at surge points. The administration is even giving free smart phones to some illegal immigrants, on the assumption that they will hold onto these phones for court pleadings and allow themselves to be tracked throughout the nation. 

More illegal aliens pouring over the border will also inevitably include some criminals. A recent Justice Department report documented that almost half of all of the criminals prosecuted in federal courts in 2018 were aliens, charged with crimes ranging from drug trafficking to murder to kidnapping.  Of the 41,000 criminals, 38,000, or over 92 percent, were illegal aliens. And these illegal immigrants must be housed, which is costly. According to the report 19 percent of the prisoners in the Federal Bureau of Prisons—30,848—were aliens, costing the American taxpayer between $1 billion and $1.2 billion per year to house them. And this report, it is important to add, does not include the state prosecutions of illegal aliens, where most criminal prosecutions occur. 

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Then there is the terrorism threat. A former Border Patrol chief has warned that the administration’s mishandling of the surge of illegal immigrants at the southern border created a national security threat because of the number of known or suspected terrorists crossing into the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told Congress that four people — three from Yemen and one from Syria — on the terror watchlist had been arrested at the border since Oct. 1, 2021. 

The outrage over rescinding Title 42 is bipartisan. According to Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who met recently with DHS Secretary Mayorkas, “(i)t is evident that the current preparations and plans for the end of Title 42 aren’t adequate” and “(i)t seems highly unlikely it will be adequate by May 23, because of poor logistics.” As a result, she has sponsored legislation, the Public Health and Borders Security Act of 2022, that will stop the lifting of Title 42 without a detailed plan in place.

There is also a lawsuit winding its way through the court system. On April 3, the Republican-led states of Missouri, Louisiana and Arizona filed a suit arguing the administration did not correctly justify its decision to end Title 42. 

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The administration is playing with fire when it comes to rescinding Title 42. But if it does, it is the American people who are likely to get burned.

Adam Turner is the Director of the Center to Advance Security in America.

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