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News Dump: Biden Admin Reveals Multi-Decade High Border Encounters in January, Despite 'Slow' Season

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

In a Friday news dump, the Biden administration released the latest border numbers for January, which is historically a very slow month.  They showed the highest number of January border crossings in decades, exceeding the levels seen in the first month of last year, which ended up being record-shattering overall.  The fiscal year is off to a terrible start on this front, with more than 400,000 known got-aways entering the US illegally between October and January.  

And now it's confirmed that the new calendar year is also posting bad numbers: 

The Biden administration seems determined to make the border crisis look better, which is how cynics are understandably interpreting the new 'temporary' 'parole' program they've implemented.  This will reduce the 'encounters' statistics, while shifting around incentives for illegal immigrants and their cartel traffickers, depending on their national origin.  Experts also say it will incentivize going the 'got-away' route for many migrants who don't qualify for the parole program, shifting the bad stats into different buckets.  And -- wouldn't you know it? -- right on cue, the administration is suddenly reducing aerial detection assets that help identify and tabulate the 'known got-away' population, which is arguably the most damaging and politically harmful component of the broader crisis.  It's a "funding" issue, we're told:

The Biden administration is significantly reducing the number of aerostats being used to monitor the overwhelmed southern border, with multiple sources telling Fox News that it is due to a lack of funding -- with a majority already being taken out of service. Last year there were 12 aerostats, nicknamed "Eyes in the Sky" by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), along the southern border. CBP sources tell Fox that only four remain now, all in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. CBP’s Air and Marine Operations uses the aerostats for detection and monitoring along the southern border and coastal regions. The Department of Defense, which agreed to spend $52 million to continue operating aerostats through to the end of FY 2022, which ended in October, after the Department of Homeland Security cut funding for the program.  Last year, the Biden administration added a balloon in Nogales, Arizona. A CBP spokesman told local media that the technology has been used along the border since 2013, that the blimp in question has a range of 3,000 feet above ground level and allows Border Patrol to "maintain visual awareness of border activity in the United States for longer periods of time."...But with that funding gone, authorities are phasing out most of the balloons along the border and sources said only a handful will remain through March 31st.

Given the trillion of dollars our federal government spends every year, it is unfathomable that we actually lack the funding to operate 'eye in the sky' blimps over our border. If there's a resources issue, Republicans should immediately file and pass a narrow bill to keep those assets in the air. What possible excuse would there be to block such legislation? Cynics, and it's hard to avoid cynicism, could be forgiven for wondering if this is really about trying to manipulating the statistics. If the federal government can't or won't detect 'got-aways,' that number goes down. The people don't stop crossing, of course, but they aren't included in the politically-embarrassing data. They become unknown got-aways, an unknowable and unquantifiable population, by definition.  Is it really all that hard to imagine this being the motive for this change?  This, by contrast, may be a somewhat non-cosmetic move:

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is developing a sweeping bill that would revamp the country's asylum system to speed up the resolution of claims in large-scale processing centers at the border with Mexico, two U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials told Reuters. The effort emerged from ongoing Biden administration discussions to reimagine asylum as border crossings have reached record highs and immigration courts face steep backlogs, said the two sources, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. U.S. officials traveled to Europe last month, including a stop in the Netherlands, to examine systems there, they said...Biden, a Democrat, is expected to seek reelection in 2024 and has toughened his approach to border security, introducing new immigration measures in recent weeks as Republicans have escalated attacks over the issue after taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.  The legislation - which remains in a conceptual phase - could also include different procedures for asylum seekers based on nationality, with migrants from countries with typically higher rates of approval given more freedom of movement while they await the outcome of their cases, the sources said.

There might be some improvements here, albeit motivated by political considerations, per the article.  Speeding up the adjudication process would be fine, but it doesn't address the core problem.  The problem is powerful incentives to come here illegally and woefully insufficient border enforcement.  Processing the problem more efficiently doesn't address the underlying problem.  If they were serious, they'd bring back 'remain in Mexico.'  Everything else is tinkering or window dressing.

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