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The Biden Border Crisis Has Gone On Long Enough (How Congress Can Help)

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In a matter of months, the Biden administration ended the policies that had successfully tightened security along our southern border and sparked the worst border crisis in U.S. history. The next Congress must reassert its authority and undo much of this administration’s destructive immigration policies.

Accountability and oversight should be the focus of congressional efforts to right the border ship. This administration, particularly Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, must be held accountable for opening our borders, sacrificing our sovereignty, and making us less safe. Congress will have to dig for answers about how this crisis was even allowed to happen and who orchestrated it.

But Congress must also hold the Biden administration’s feet to the fire on policy. Fortunately, a roadmap to doing so—and beginning to restore our border—already exists.

Earlier this year, the Heritage Foundation, the America First Policy Institute, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the National Border Patrol Council, and other organizations put forward a plan the next Congress should follow. It was endorsed by border security professionals like former acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tom Homan, and former DHS acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli—and for good reason.

Adopting these policies would reduce illegal immigration, end the ongoing crisis, and secure our border once more.

Some of the plan’s solutions are obvious. For instance, next year’s budget should provide the funds needed to finish the border wall system. Border Patrol agents have repeatedly testified that walls work. Congress should pony up the money needed to build the wall system agents say they need to control the border.

Congress should also reinstate the Remain in Mexico program via legislative action. This program was central to solving the 2019 border crisis, because it discouraged tens of thousands of illegal aliens from crossing the border and filing fraudulent asylum claims. Joe Biden arbitrarily ended it earlier this year, with an assist from the Supreme Court, but then recently reached an agreement with Mexico to use a version of the authority with Venezuelans seeking to illegally migrate to the U.S.

It is also critical to eliminate fraudulent asylum claims by returning the asylum system to original congressional intent and making the process more efficient for those with legitimate asylum claims.

Under the previous administration, if an illegal alien applied for asylum at our southern border but had not sought protection in a safe third country through which he had traveled, cooperative agreements were in place with the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to return that individual to one of those countries to seek asylum protection there.

The Biden administration ended these commonsense measures. As a result, the number of asylum applications made annually to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services jumped from almost 43,000 at the end of the third quarter in fiscal year 2021 to nearly 119,000 by the end of the third quarter in fiscal year 2022. Changes to the system ordered by the Administration make it easy to file bogus asylum claims and then disappear into the interior. On average, immigration judges have granted asylum in only 15% of the cases presented during the Biden administration, demonstrating the degree to which this important benefit is being abused.

It’s time to make anyone who illegally enters the country ineligible for asylum if they passed through a safe third country on the way here. Congress could do it immediately.

And we need to close loopholes in the system that have long been exploited by the cartels and human traffickers. That means a legislative fix to the Flores settlement agreement, an undemocratic judicial ruling that requires minors—and family members with them—to be released from immigration detention after 20 days.

This ruling has led the Border Patrol, as directed by the Administration, to release so-called “family units” (members of many “units” are not actually related) into the interior. The cartels know this; it’s why we saw a massive surge of minors in 2019—they were the ticket non-related migrants used to gain entry.

Flores should be fixed. And Congress must also close the loophole in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which bars minors from non-contiguous countries—anywhere but Mexico and Canada—from being immediately removed. Instead, they are put through lengthy deportation proceedings and given extensive taxpayer-funded benefits.

Naturally, the cartels have shifted their business model to account for this bizarre distinction, and the number of minors from other countries has exploded. Congress must address this inhumane loophole.

“But Democrats will block any changes,” some argue. Fine—make them own their decision to do so. The American people are tired of the consequences of open borders. They didn’t vote for open borders. They didn’t vote for more drugs pouring across the border and into their communities.

The Biden border crisis has gone on long enough. It has enriched the drug cartels, while destroying countless American lives in communities across our country. Illegal aliens themselves are dying in record numbers making the journey. It’s time for Congress to do its job and secure our border.

Lora Ries is director of the Border Security and Immigration Center at The Heritage Foundation. She has over 26 years’ experience in the immigration and homeland security arena. Ries twice worked at the Department of Homeland Security on management and immigration policy and operations issues, most recently as the Acting Deputy Chief of Staff. She also worked in the private sector as a homeland security industry strategist and in government relations.

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