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Cushman: Lack of U.S. Leadership Exacerbates Southern Border Crisis
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Cushman: Lack of U.S. Leadership Exacerbates Southern Border Crisis

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In March, as the number of encounters between illegal immigrants and U.S. Border Patrol agents was increasing on our southern border, President Joe Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to take charge of the problem. “I can think of nobody who’s better qualified to do this,” Biden said of Harris. “When she speaks, she speaks for me.”

Since then, the crisis has escalated. The number of encounters this month is likely to be astronomical.

How do I know? Just look at the numbers. In February, right before Harris was put in charge, there were 101,099 southwest land border encounters between migrants and Border Patrol agents, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. The year before, there had been 36,697 such encounters.

There was clearly a crisis as the volume had almost tripled in a year. Unfortunately, the crisis has gotten worse since Harris was put in charge. Last month, there were 208,887 encounters, more than quadruple the 50,014 encounters from the same month last year. Former President Donald Trump’s tweets about the problem may have been mean, but he was clear about controlling the borders of our nation, and many would-be migrants appear to have taken him at his word.

Why do people seek to cross illegally at our southern border? Simple — they believe that, even if they are caught, they may still be able to stay in the United States. They will continue to come until we ensure that there are very few ways to cross illegally, and we send back those who do cross. Otherwise, many will decide it’s a risk that they are willing to take.

Our policy of releasing families into the United States has dramatically increased the number of family units and unaccompanied minors coming into our country illegally. It also allows for the potential abuse of children by smugglers. The Department of Homeland Security has broken up rings of smugglers who recycle children. Smugglers use them to pose as members of a family whose heads of household are seeking asylum. Once the group is released into the United States, the smugglers arrange for the children to be returned to Mexico to cross northward again — as part of another family unit.

So far, this fiscal year, which ends this month, the encounters have totaled 1,541,651. Last year, the encounters for the same months were 400,414. This is a vast humanitarian and national security crisis.

Recently, thousands of people have been gathering in makeshift camps in Del Rio, Texas, under the Del Rio-Ciudad Acuna International Bridge, after crossing illegally into the United States. They have surged to this area because they had heard that the border was open. These thousands include many Haitians, some of whom had been living in South America for years and have decided that now is a good time to try to make their ways into the United States.

Overwhelmed, U.S. authorities are busing them to processing centers. Unfortunately, with so many people swarming the border, we have stretched the abilities of our limited personnel. Riding in buses without restraints, the results have been disastrous.

According to a Washington Examiner article titled, “Haitian migrants in custody have ‘hijacked’ multiple buses,” by Anna Giaritelli, Haitian passengers have overpowered the drivers and escaped into our country.

“They’ve actually hijacked a couple of the buses and driven them down the road a little ways and escaped,” a senior federal law enforcement official told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday. “This happened multiple times,”

They were traveling in “boarded-up school buses and commercial coach buses,” and these hijackings happened on the way to the processing centers as well as on the way to the airport for deportation, according to Giaritelli.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who traveled on Monday to Del Rio, tried to dissuade additional people from entering by saying the southern U.S. border is “not open.” Additionally, he promised that anyone caught entering the country illegally would be sent back. “Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives,” he said.

While his message was clear, its impact remained fuzzy. It will take much more than talk; it will take clear, swift action and bold leadership to convince people that crossing into our country illegally is not worth the risk.

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