Biden Admin Dapples in Deterrence Policies with Northern Triangle Agreements but Falls Short
The Biden administration announced this week that it had reached new agreements with Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to ramp up border security between the nations. The agreements mimic the border-security agreements negotiated by the Trump administration in 2019, which called for an increased military presence on the borders connecting the countries to reduce illegal migration through the region. Officials from both Guatemala and Honduras, however, have denied any new agreements have been made, and stressed that these efforts have been consistently in place.
As apprehension numbers continue to soar to historic records with no end in sight, the Biden administration must continue to implement deterrence policies to humanely address the crisis consistent with the very real needs of the American public. A common-sense strategy includes reinstating the Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs) that the U.S. government negotiated with the Government of Guatemala and the Government of Honduras, separately, as recently as 2019. These agreements, if turned on, would simultaneously deter illegal border crossing while ensuring that legitimate asylum seekers are able to receive protection in a country, other than the United States, where they do not fear harm. Like other Safe Third Country agreements, the ACAs with Guatemala and Honduras are consistent with the United States’ obligations derived by international treaties.
Even more importantly, the Biden administration must resume the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. MPP allows Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to use their discretion to return aliens to Mexico pending their hearing with an immigration judge in the United States. MPP is neither mandatory nor allows officers to return vulnerable populations, including UACs, Mexican nationals, or otherwise vulnerable aliens, to Mexico. Because MPP places aliens more quickly in front of an immigration judge for a full analysis of their asylum application and skips the low-bar credible fear screening process, MPP both benefits legitimate asylum seekers while deterring fraudulent claims. Aliens placed in MPP are not released into the interior of the United States, and therefore, do not have an opportunity to disappear before their court date, like many historically have.
Further, if the Biden administration was earnestly concerned about the quality of accommodations that is available to aliens waiting in Mexico, it could work with the Government of Mexico, (just as the previous administration had) to increase the quality of support available to this population. Even if the United States had to fund a portion of this assurance, it would surely be a better use of taxpayer money than continuing to encourage human smuggling and mass illegal migration into the United States. (Remember, reports just last week estimated that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is spending $60 million a week to just house UACs. This estimate does not include any of other costs associated with the larger border crisis, including: costs incurred by DHS to manage to surge and the severe strain to CBP resources; testing and care related to COVID-19; fear screenings and UAC asylum applications USCIS will have to conduct and process; costs related to detention and ICE representation in all cases that do eventually end up in front of an immigration judge; costs incurred by the Department of Justice (DOJ) related to the growing immigration court backlog; and the innumerable costs that will be incurred by states, localities, and citizens related to law enforcement; health care; increased employment competition; repairing environmental damage; and certain public benefits. Approximately $60 million a week is just a small fraction of the total cost of this border crisis to taxpayers.)
Fortunately, for both this administration and the American public, no one needs to recreate the wheel in order to humanely manage this crisis. The work has already been done and the framework to manage this surge was already in place. It is clear that the Biden administration does not have intent to reduce fraudulent asylum claims and mass illegal immigration to the United States. Rather, this administration appears focused on creating new pathways through amnesty legislation or executive action to allow inadmissible aliens into the United States without having to make the dangerous journey through Mexico, regardless if the asylum claims meet legal standards and no matter the cost to American public at large.