Border Patrol agents are already seeing a Biden surge in illegal immigration at the southwest border, officials said Thursday, with the numbers surging 21% over the last month alone.
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan said worsening economic conditions south of the border are largely responsible for the uptick, but he also blamed “perceived and or anticipated shifts in policies” here in the U.S.
He said it’s particularly dangerous at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on CBP personnel. At least 1,300 CBP staffers are currently quarantined, 700 are currently COVID-positive and 15 have died of the virus.
“I’ve attended way too many funerals,” Mr. Morgan said.
Border Patrol agents and CBP officers snared about 69,000 unauthorized border crossers in October, up from about 58,000 in September.
Most of those are able to be immediately pushed back across the southwest border thanks to an emergency public health order from the Centers to Disease Control during the pandemic.
That’s allowed CBP to make some 300,000 expulsions over the last eight months, which Mr. Morgan said has likely saved the country from many more coronavirus cases.
Hard drug seizures are also up significantly.
Cocaine seizures in October were up 57% compared to September, and up 63% compared to October 2019. Heroine was up 132% and 181% respectively, and fentanyl soared 58% compared to a month ago, and about 300% compared to October 2019.
The amount of drugs seized is considered a good yardstick for the overall flow, so increases suggest that even more is getting through.
The same is true of border apprehensions.
October’s surge included more than 4,500 parents and children traveling as families, and more than 4,600 children traveling without parents — dubbed Unaccompanied Alien Children or UAC — who were caught by Border Patrol agents as they tried to sneak in.
The UAC number is the highest since summer 2019, when the Central American migrant surge was still going on, and the rise is a caution of worse to come.
November appears to be continuing the grim pace.
Agents reported finding a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old who’d been abandoned along the Rio Grande in Texas on Wednesday. They were siblings from Honduras, and they were carrying their birth certificates and a handwritten note with contact information for an aunt in the U.S., aware that under current policy authorities will likely deliver the children to the relatives, thus completing the smuggling journey.
Homeland Security officials had been warning for months that they expected a rise in illegal border crossing as talk of more lenient deportation policies took hold here in the U.S.
Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden has said he would halt deportations and suspend many of the border policies that helped end last year’s migrant surge.
“Make no mistake, that is going to sound the alarm that our borders are open,” Mr. Morgan said. “You will see a crisis that makes last year’s crisis look like child’s play. And you can take that to the bank.”
Among the policies targeted by Mr. Biden are the Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as “remain in Mexico,” which allowed CBP to return many illegal immigrants back to Mexico to wait for their immigration hearings. Mr. Morgan said that denied them a foothold, and cut the incentive for them to come in the first place.
He said before that policy, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, both part of Homeland Security, released some 500,000 migrants directly into communities in 2019. After MPP was implemented, that fell to 15,000 in 2020.
Mr. Morgan said halting border wall construction, as Mr. Biden has vowed, will also hamper CBP’s ability to stop future waves of illegal migration.
As of this week, the Trump administration has erected 402 miles of wall, and will hit 450 miles by the end of the year. It has plans to build about 300 miles beyond that, though that construction is now in danger with the results of the election.
“The very people now that are against building a wall voted for the wall back then. It’s beyond frustrating,” Mr. Morgan said. “I can draw no other conclusion than this is politics.”
Mr. Biden voted in 2006 to build 700 miles of double-tier fence on the border.
That was never completed.
Mr. Biden has argued the answer to illegal immigration lies beyond the border in Central America and Mexico, and he’s proposed nation-building to try to solve the reasons people flee north.