According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration's Department of Health and Human Services will use taxpayer money to fly unaccompanied minors who illegally cross the border to their relatives inside the United States. This move comes as the White House is under fire for its new 'kids in cages' policy, under which detention centers are again housing 'migrant children,' Progressives are furious that such facilities exist, while conservatives are eagerly leveling allegations of hypocrisy and recalling that candidate Biden stated, "we don't need them," in reference to immigration detention centers. In addition to the possibility of opening more shelters to help handle the influx of new arrivals, here is the new administration's latest effort to navigate the politics of this issue:
HHS confirmed last night the Biden admin will pay airfare for unaccompanied minors to expedite their release from shelters and send them to relatives who might not be able to afford travel.— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) February 25, 2021
Shelter beds are $750+ day so likely cost saving for govt. https://t.co/fAoUjjMCat
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement email obtained by The Washington Post shows that the administration has already entered crisis mode on the southern border. “We need to prepare for border surges now,” Timothy Perry, ICE’s new chief of staff, wrote in a Feb. 12 email. “We need to begin making changes immediately.” The Biden administration is so worried about running out of shelter space for teenagers and children who cross the border without their parents that shelters have been authorized to purchase airplane tickets and cover other transportation costs for minors whose relatives are already living in the United States, according to an email from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement — which runs the shelters — that was obtained by The Post. HHS confirmed the policy change late Wednesday.
Could the growing surge correspond with a widespread perception among foreign nationals that the new president will be much more permissive on illegal immigration? That seems highly likely. Here's another vignette from the same Post story:
Biden’s 2020 election victory drew cheers from migrants stranded in squalid, freezing refugee camps in Mexico, and some rushed across a bridge in the border city of El Paso while chanting his name. Unlike Trump — whose tough talk of an immigration crackdown led to record-low border crossings in his first months in office — Biden has arrived as the numbers are rising. And because the Trump administration issued a public-health order effectively blocking migrants from crossing into the United States, Biden inherited an infrastructure ill-prepared to handle a big influx in the middle of the pandemic. Federal agents have taken into custody more than 70,000 migrants a month for each of the past four months, the most for that period in at least 10 years.
Rhetoric and policies have consequences. According to a 2018 PBS report, under the system, unaccompanied children are held in federal custody for a period of time as the immigration adjudication system does its work. Illegal minor entrants from our immediate neighbors can be rapidly screened and deported, but the process takes longer for other foreign nationals. These kids are sometimes placed with relatives or other sponsors who care for them pending deportation proceedings. As for the new development described in the tweet above, it's understandable why some may view this as humane, sensible and cost-effective. But incentives matter. What message would it send for the US government to announce that it will use taxpayer dollars to fly children who arrive in our country illegally -- often after very dangerous journeys -- to be with their relatives across the country? That policy would create an even stronger magnet to attract more crossings. These crossings are illegal and treacherous, and must not be encouraged.
We know that even inaccurate rumors of amnesty for children has helped fuel previous surges of unaccompanied minors flooding into America. Bad incentives drive crises. And while it may be true that flying a child to meet her aunt in Chicago might be cheaper than holding her in a shelter, what's the calculation of costs associated with incentivizing many more illegal border crossings? It's just not sustainable. Offering such accommodations while also sending very clear signals about deportations -- attempting to pause them altogether, and suspending or de-prioritizing them for various additional crimes -- is a recipe for disaster. Recall also that Biden supports taxpayer-funded healthcare for illegal immigrants, and most Congressional Democrats favor direct 'COVID relief' payments to illegal immigrants. And don't forget that in their myopic rush to signal anti-Trumpism, Team Biden has eliminated sensible and successful Trump-era agreements with Mexico and three Central American countries that alleviated core components of the border crisis that was overwhelming our system and personnel:
Once again demonstrating Democrats’ obsession with undoing all things Trump, the Biden team is unilaterally canceling US agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that helped rein in the surge of illegal crossers at the US-Mexico border — with no plan in place for what else to do. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the move over the weekend, basically admitting the administration doesn’t actually have an alternate plan yet as he cited a belief that “there are more suitable ways to work with our partner governments to manage migration across the region,” including efforts to reduce the poverty and fear that prompts flight to America. Right: Just cure the ills of the countries these people are fleeing — a goal that has eluded Washington and the region for roughly five decades. Blinken’s mixed message: “These actions do not mean that the US border is open,” but “we are committed to expanding legal pathways for protection and opportunity here and in the region.” This, after the new president already paused deportations and suspended the Trump “remain in Mexico” policy that required asylum applicants to wait outside the country while their cases were processed.
Most Americans are in favor of a humane immigration system, and support significant reforms to the broken status quo. But any 'fixes' that encourage more illegal immigration, especially if they're not backed up with serious new enforcement, are unacceptable and irresponsible.
UPDATE - Yes, incentives matter:
New @StefWKight - A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a surge to 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios. https://t.co/BxDcOST4IY— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) February 26, 2021