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There is No National Security without Asylum

Welcome sign for asylum seekers and migrants at a shelter in Del Rio, Texas. Photo by Jenn Budd.
Welcome sign for asylum seekers and migrants at a shelter in Del Rio, Texas. Photo by Jenn Budd.

The Biden Administration has done a piss poor job of reminding Americans why a robust asylum system is essential for national security. For three years, migrants, asylum seekers and those of us concerned for their safety have waited patiently for the President to come through with his promises. In the run up to the 2020 election, President Biden promised to end many of Trump's draconian immigration policies like the duplicitously named Migrant Protection Protocols, Title 42 pandemic law and child separation. Though it took time, he did succeed in rolling back some of the cruelest of Trump's immigration policies.

Now three years into this administration and Biden is no different than those who came before him with their empty promises, and once again it appears Democrats are willing to cede the immigration debate to the Republicans. While presidential candidate Biden promised to fix the broken and brutal immigration system, he has fallen far short and even turned his back on most of his promises.

As a presidential candidate, Biden famously stated, "There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration!" Today, President Biden is building more border wall. Candidate Biden claimed he would reunite families separated under Trump and even considered paying for their emotional damages. When Republicans got their anti-immigrant panties in a bunch over this, President Biden relented and refused to compensate those separated families. Then there was the promise that the candidate made in October 2020 about restoring the decimated asylum system and providing an amnesty program: "Within 100 days, I'm going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people. And all of those so-called Dreamers, those DACA kids, They're going to be immediately certified again to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship."

That last promise seems to have been completely forgotten by President Joe Biden.

In November of 2023, Donald Trump announced he would run for president in 2024 on an authoritarian dictatorship plan that promises to shut the entire asylum system down again, build new giant detention centers and hunt millions of undocumented people. While President Biden immediately denounced Trump's plans, now less than a month later, he has changed his mind. According to many news outlets, Biden is considering shutting the asylum system as Trump did under Title 42 and increasing deportations in exchange for funding for Ukraine's war with Russia.

Since main stream media is not going to remind Americans what life on the border was like for asylum seekers with the asylum system shuttered under Title 42, I will remind you. The policy essentially shut down the entire asylum system for the vast majority of asylum seekers from March 2020 to May 2023; over three years. Trump enacted this 1940s pandemic law stating it was an effort to slow down Covid-19 even though he did not believe the virus was that big of deal and notoriously refused to mask. I do not believe he enacted this law as a pandemic response but as a political operation meant to decimate the system, and it did. For three years asylum seeking families either waited for Title 42 to end, or they were forced to cross illegally in between the ports in order to request asylum from Border Patrol agents instead of CBP.

And if you don't care about the migrants, let's remember what it did to agents. Border Patrol is currently going through one of the worst eras of agent suicides. While the Border Patrol Union claims this is because Biden will not let them be as brutal as Trump did, the truth is that the brutality of Trump's policies has caused many agent suicides. The agency will never admit to this, because it would mean that their own policies are causing mental harm to the agents. Yet, month after month, I continue to receive calls from old agents about to retire describing the processing centers of the agency as "dystopian nightmares" where complaints by migrants about the brutality of agents is laughed at and often go ignored. I continue to get messages from agents who are the verge of swallowing their guns and newer agents who were and continue to be scared to tell their command that they are suffering PTSD from witnessing and dishing out this brutality.

Most of all, let us not forget the complaining done by the Border Patrol Union leaders and chiefs of sectors about how overwhelmed they were under Title 42, how morale of the agents was low, how national security was at risk because they could not adequately inspect every migrant coming across when the ports were closed to inspections. So, why would Republicans and Border Patrol leaders want to go back to Title 42 if it was a colossal failure in regard to securing the border? Why hold up Ukraine funding unless they get something akin to the disastrous Title 42 policy that is actually hurting their own agents' mental health and does nothing to secure the border?

Why does the Border Patrol Union not care about the well being of its agents? Well, the Union bosses don't work the field. Union officials didn't take the kids from their parents under Trump, they are not processing asylum seekers constantly because migrants cannot apply at the ports, they do not dish out the brutality but merely order agents to do their dirty work. The media so far has not been willing to ask Republicans or Border Patrol why they would want such a disastrous policy back in place. If they did, they would likely receive some garbled nonsense about how the border was secure under Trump versus Biden.

The press and the American public will not be told the honest truth: that Republicans and the Border Patrol Union are willing to risk the health and lives of their own agents and that of asylum seeking families to get Trump back in power.

Whether the US president is a Republican or Democrat, there will always be people coming to our borders to seek asylum. We are fortunate to live in a nation that people dream of migrating to in order to seek safety and to raise their families. Securing the border and preventing people from crossing illegally without inspections, trying to apprehend those that do cross and identifying them is just one aspect of national security. What Republicans and Border Patrol leaders do not want to admit and what Democrats have failed to explain to the public is that a robust asylum system is the other part. Specifically, our southern border is a continuous border with about fifty ports of entry. However, asylum seekers may only apply for asylum at eight of these ports. That is eight ports for nearly two thousand miles of border and hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers waiting for months if not years to enter the US the legal way.

The results of Title 42 and shutting down the asylum system for three years was an overwhelming number of asylum seekers being forced to cross illegally between the ports. This inundated the Border Patrol with thousands of families who would have normally been processed under CBP at the ports. When Border Patrol becomes overwhelmed with so much processing, they often fail to wait and make all the checks necessary upon inspection as happened in this case. This is where the security issues arise.

As we have seen from nearly thirty years of Border Patrol policies, deterrence against illegally crossing without inspection does not deter anyone. Border Patrol deterrence policies against crossing illegally do not work. Thousands upon thousands have lost their lives as the US government funnels those who cross illegally into our most dangerous terrain, and yet they keep coming. This is because the danger they are running from is far worse than dying of dehydration in our deserts, drowning in the Rio Grande or freezing to death in the Laguna Mountains.

Knowing all of this now, it is easy to see that when and if the Biden Administration does choose to close the asylum system in exchange for money for Ukraine, families will do what they did after just two months of Title 42, they will cross illegally. This then reduces the chances they will be inspected, increases the chances they will die or be seriously injured and traumatized, increases the brutality that agents dish out and witness and thus reduces national security along our southern border by overwhelming the Border Patrol.

The reason why Republicans want to restart Title 42 style restrictions to the asylum process is because they are deeply invested in Donald Trump becoming president again. It is no secret that

the Border Patrol Union and its agents love Trump. They and their anti-immigrant hate group fans have even gone so far as to claim that President Biden should be arrested for smuggling, that his Secretary of DHS should be impeached and senior ranking agents have left the agency and joined organizations intent on usurping every immigration policy Biden and Democrats produce. Border Patrol Union leadership is still hanging out with Trump, and leaders from his administration continue to try and overthrow the government as they did on January 6th, only their focus is now on the border.

Border Patrol Union Vice-President Art del Cueto of Border Patrol Union palling around with January 6th Insurrection leaders. Screen shots from Art del Cueto's Instagram account.

Border Patrol and Republicans know that if they can get the border chaotic enough, it will drive their anti-immigrant voters to the polls. If they can get Biden to sell out his promises and enact a Trump-style Title 42 restriction on asylum, we will have chaos unlike anything we have ever seen on the border. Asylum seekers will begin crossing in between the ports, deaths will continue to rise and Trump will have the momentum to possibly win the 2024 election. The compromises Republicans and the Union want from President Biden are a trap.

Democrats and the Biden Administration must do what they should have done three years ago after winning the presidency; they must educate the public on why an asylum system in integral to US national security. They must explain how when we close the asylum system, it prevents us from conducting security inspections on those entering our country. It overwhelms the Border Patrol and further prevents them from focusing on criminals like drug smugglers and possible terrorists. The only way to prevent Border Patrol from being overwhelmed on the southern border is to inspect and fund that inspection of asylum seekers at the ports by CBP officials.

The asylum system is an essential part of national security. It's time to start acting like it and investing in it.


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