‘Unprecedented Crisis’: Former DHS Acting Secretary Urges Biden to Change Border Policies
Chad Wolf, former acting Secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told The Epoch Times that there is an unprecedented crisis at the southern border that will continue if the Biden administration doesn’t change policies.
“At this point of time, I’m calling this an unprecedented crisis,” Wolf said in an interview with The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders” on Wednesday.
Not only are apprehension numbers reaching 20-year highs, but the administration is taking steps that haven’t been done before, Wolf said.
Border Patrol apprehended 100,441 illegal border crossers in February, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“Over 100,000 folks [apprehended] in February was the highest February that we had seen in 20 years,” Wolf said. “You’re likely to see over 140,000 illegal apprehensions in the month of March.”
“You got to remember that’s equaling about 4,000 to 4,500 folks a day. And those are just the ones that Border Patrol catches. It’s estimated that there’s anywhere from another 1,000 to 1,500 what we call ‘gotaways’—folks that border patrol never sees.”
Wolf said in the Rio Grande Valley, an area at the Texas-Mexico border, almost 50 percent of border patrol agents are now pulled off the line to take care of illegal immigrants in the Border Patrol facilities.
“Which means they’re not doing their national security mission, what they’re trained for,” Wolf added. “Instead, they’re inside Border Patrol facilities doing that care and feeding for these migrants.”
Cartels, smugglers, and traffickers can take advantage of that to smuggle more people, drugs, and other contraband over, Wolf pointed out.
The Biden administration has sent the Federal Emergency Management Agency down to the border and is allowing illegal immigrants to be released into the country without a court date.
“These are things that the department has never done before because we’ve never had this type of surge and capacity issues along that border,” Wolf added. “So it’s certainly a crisis in my book. It’s a crisis to everyone that I’ve talked to.”
Wolf also criticized the Biden administration’s approach to treat the surge as a capacity issue.
“If you just simply open up more centers, provide more care, you’re just incentivizing more and more folks to come.”
The Biden administration has refused to call the spike a “crisis,” sometimes acknowledged it as a “big problem” or “an enormous challenge.”
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other prominent Democrats such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently blamed former President Donald Trump for the massive surge of illegal immigrants at the border.
“The prior administration completely dismantled the asylum system. The system was gutted, facilities were closed, and they cruelly expelled young children into the hands of traffickers,” Mayorkas said in a statement on Mar. 16. “We have had to rebuild the entire system, including the policies and procedures required to administer the asylum laws that Congress passed long ago.”
Wolf argued that the facts don’t back up their claims. For example, in the Trump administration’s first three years, they issued more asylum claims than in any three years of the Obama presidency.
“If they’re referring that we dismantled catch-and-release, then yes, I would agree with them,” Wolf added. “But I think most Americans would agree that that is not a functioning immigration process or system.”
As to the Central American Minors program that the Trump administration withdrew, Wolf said it’s because very few minors actually qualified for asylum over the years, and the program required many resources and efforts. “We didn’t find it was a good use of resources,” Wolf said.
Wolf suggested the current administration is actually utilizing some Trump-era policies to effectuate their immigration policy, such as using temporary shelters built during the Trump administration, having Mexico stem the immigration flow, and using Title 42 to turn some individuals back.
Title 42 (pdf) is a public health order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Border agents can use Title 42 authority to send back illegal aliens quickly due to the pandemic.
The DHS is currently using Title 42 to expel single adults and families—unless “Mexico does not have the capacity to receive the families” or a family member has an “acute vulnerability,” according to Mayorkas’s statement.
But in February, only about 40 percent of families were removed, and the number might be as low as 14 percent in March, Wolf said.
“So in some ways, they’re using our playbook, they’re talking about it differently. And they’re not being as effective,” Wolf added. “But it goes against their argument that we tore down this entire system that they’re having to rebuild from scratch.”
Sending Out a Signal That The Border is Open
Wolf suggested that by abolishing or changing some Trump-era policies, the Biden administration is sending out a signal that “the border is now open” and “we are not removing people.”
Wolf explained that the Biden administration had stopped border wall construction, restricted the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents’ abilities to remove illegal immigrants, and took down the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which would keep asylum seekers remain in Mexico during their immigration proceedings.
“We wanted to root out that fraud so that we could get people into their asylum claim, into the immigration system quickly,” Wolf said, referring to MPP and pointing out that 85 to 90 percent of individuals don’t qualify for asylum in the end.
The Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACA), which was signed with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras by the Trump administration to encourage individuals to seek asylum close to their home country, was also rescinded by the Biden administration.
Furthermore, the current administration issued an exemption on Title 42 deportations of unaccompanied children so that unaccompanied children can stay in the United States.
“That’s why you see a [unaccompanied children] flood. That’s why you see over 5,000 in custody today,” Wolf said. “At the height of the 2019 crisis, it was about 2,600. So it’s almost more than double. Because the signal is given.”
“That’s a significant pull factor. They have to address the [unaccompanied children] issue. Otherwise, that’s going to continue to occur day after day, month after month.”
Wolf said families are pushing their children across the border, separating themselves from the child because they think a child has a better chance to stay in the United States.
“You’re going to see even higher [unaccompanied children] numbers, and I think it was predicted, by May, it could be even 13,000 in one month, which is astronomical,” Wolf added. “Because they are sending the signal.”
The signal is “inhumane,” Wolf said.
Up to 90 percent of those immigrants would not qualify for asylum and should be returned home. But they are taking a very dangerous journey—some spending life savings to cartels and smugglers because “no one is coming across that border illegally on their own,” Wolf said.
The White House and the DHS repeatedly told immigrants recently that “the border is not open” and “don’t come now.”
“Migrants just are not listening to the U.S. government officials,” Wolf said. “They listen to action, and they listen to what is going on on the ground. Do we have MPP? Do we have to wait in Mexico? … The children that we send up there, are they returning home within a matter of weeks?”
“Actions speak louder than words in this case,” Wolf concluded. “They can change the messaging, but if they don’t change any of their policies and have a different enforcement posture, then again, the crisis is going to continue.”
The DHS didn’t immediately respond to a request from The Epoch Times for comment.