A surge of people seeking to enter the US illegally and the release of thousands of people in border towns to await their immigration hearings has put the Biden Administration on the defensive and prompted sharp criticism by Republicans.

The apprehensions on the border increased 36% during Biden’s first full month in office. Shelters on the US side have filled up, prompting the Administration to release a growing number of people seeking asylum in border towns. After Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dropped off 16 people in Gila Bend, the mayor declared an emergency.

Rep. Paul Gosar has issued repeated press releases and made trips to the border to attack the Administration.

“In eight short weeks, the Biden Administration has destroyed all of President Trump’s progress in securing the southern border. The sad reality is if Biden had done absolutely nothing eight weeks ago, we would be so much better off today. What’s happening in Yuma is unconscionable. Mr. Biden has turned a blind eye to this crisis he created. There are a historic number of illegal aliens crossing our border, a record number of underaged migrants in Customs and Border Patrol facilities, human trafficking is surging and gang and cartel activity is exploding, all during a pandemic. Let me be clear, the cartels are running our southern border.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also made a trip to the border as a setting to blast the Administration for being “totally out of touch with the reality on the ground. Washington has never been this out of touch and it starts at the top.”

Ducey suggested President Joe Biden had given migrants the impression “that our borders are open, that asylum policies have changed, and that an amnesty bill is in the works — and left Arizona to pick up the pieces,” according to a story on his press conference in the Arizona Republic.

The Associated Press published a Fact Check on misstatements and exaggerations in both statements Biden made in a press conference and on the claims of a huge rush of undocumented immigrants as soon as Biden took office.

Federal figures show a huge increase in apprehensions at the border since April of 2020, when apprehensions bottomed out at about 17,000. The combination of the pandemic and an agreement with Mexico to keep would-be migrants and asylum seekers at the boarder led to a big drop in apprehensions. The number of people trying to cross the boarder has risen steadily since then. In President Trump’s last full month in office 71,047 people were apprehended along the 2,000-mile southern border. In February, the number shot up to 96,974 — a 36% increase.

Gov. Ducey incorrectly stated that apprehensions had increased roughly 460% since Biden took office, which was apparently based on comparing the totals for April of 2020 with February of 2021.

The Biden Administration continues to immediately expel 70% of the people apprehended, including invoking “Rule 42” to expel anyone with COVID-19 symptoms — except for unaccompanied children. Asylum seekers who aren’t immediately deported have to test negative for COVID-19 before they can be released to await a hearing in the US. However, during his press conference Biden incorrectly said the US continues to expel an overwhelming majority of the families apprehended. A much smaller share of the families have been expelled than the adults traveling alone.

The Border Patrol predicts that apprehensions this year may hit a 20-year high.

However, President Biden during his press conferences incorrectly said “nothing has changed” and that the present surge represents a mere, seasonal increase in people trying to cross the border.

US Customs and Border Protection says that agents encountered 9,457 children without a parent in February — an increase of 61% compared to January. That compares to a 31% increase for the same period in the previous year. A judge had previously ordered the Trump Administration to ensure that unaccompanied children at the border do not spend more than 72 hours in a border detention facility before being moved to a shelter or placed with relatives to await the outcome of a hearing. Some 9,500 children are currently in shelters and another 4,500 in federal detention facilities. The administration has been trying to move children out of the detention facilities as quickly as possible, preferably through placement with a relative.

The Administration did suspend the “shelter in Mexico” agreement, partly due to the condition of the facilities in Mexico, which are also overflowing. The Administration has also declared support for a comprehensive immigration reform package that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers in the US long term. The administration also supports legalizing the status of some 700,000 “dreamers,” the undocumented children of immigrations who have spent most of their lives in the U.S.

The administration has also been releasing from overflowing detention facilities on the border thousands of people to awaiting hearings on the pleas for asylum or immigration. The rising number of immigrants at the border has overtaxed the existing detention facilities. As a result, border patrol agents have been dropping thousands of families and individuals in towns all along the 2,000-mile border, often in places like Gila Bend, which has no shelters or places for the undocumented immigrants to stay.

The immigrants are given COVID tests and must be negative to qualify for the release. Federal officials say the infection rate among those tested as so far been lower than the overall infection rate in Texas.

The latest stimulus package included $110 million to help care for released immigrants at the border and the Administration is planning to build additional tent detention centers in Tucson and elsewhere.

However, Rep. Gosar and other have both decried the overcrowded detention facilities, the restrictions that have drawn Mexican drug cartels into the business of human smuggling as well as the release of would-be immigrants from detention facilities.

He noted that apprehensions in the Yuma sector “in a few short months” have increased from 25 illegal aliens per day to more than 375 per day.

“It is evident that we have ceded operational control of the border to the cartels. In February alone, the drug cartels earned more than $400 million trafficking illegal aliens across the border,” said Gosar in a newsletter to constituents. “The Biden administration is rewarding the cartels, human traffickers and coyotes whose main business has become smuggling human across our border. The first step to resolving this crisis is for the Biden Administration to actually recognize it is a crisis. Unfortunately, Mrs. (Vice President) Harris just laughs it off and Mr. Biden refuses to acknowledge it is a crisis. This is no laughing matter. It’s long past time this Administration begin to take this crisis seriously.”

Gosar was apparently referring to a clip showing Vice President Harris laughing after a reporter asked if she planned to visit the border. At the time, she was visiting Florida. The Associated Press published a fact check on the allegation concluding that the clip did “not show the full interaction and the context in which she laughed” during the eight-minute interchange with reporters. After answering a series of questions about COVID-19 vaccinations, she was asked if she planned to visit the border during the Florida trip. She did a double take, said “not today,” and laughed before answering additional questions about the border situation.

Gosar has cosponsored HR 1883 that would halt all immigration for the next four years, fund completion of the border wall, speed deportation of illegal aliens, cut off funding for sanctuary cities, rescind executive orders concerning border enforcement and rescind amnesty programs that provide a way for people living here illegally to legalize their status.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

(2) comments

pioneerfamily

The tragedy for us citizens is that our broken two party system is incapable of solving any problems. The two dysfunctional parties spend all their time and energy and money solving imaginary problems and can't govern on the real issues.

phxnative54

pioneerfamily: It is NOT "two dysfunctional parties" - it is ONE useless "Party of NO" that is obstructing and obfuscating any and all legislation designed to help Americans and move our country forward. That party has proven they are both unwilling and unable to govern; their only purpose any more is to remain in office (at whatever cost to democracy) and to maintain their own power.

The other party is actually enacting legislation to do what the majority of Americans want.

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