The migrants from the Biden border surge are being nabbed along the Rio Grande, the Arizona deserts and the remoteness of New Mexico and southern California. But they’re not staying there.
Haitians and Cubans are fanning out to Florida, while Central Americans are surging into New York, California and the Washington, D.C., area.
One analyst called the mass movement of people “catch-and-bus,” a play on the Border Patrol’s newly revived policy of catch-and-release for tens of thousands of parents and children being nabbed at the border in recent weeks.
“Immediately overwhelmed and unwilling to return children with their parents, Biden’s DHS began handing out legal permission slips to pursue more permanent legal status later and put them on outward-bound buses,” wrote Todd Bensman, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, in a new account from the border in Del Rio, Texas.
He described his visit to a migrant assistance nonprofit, where newcomers were being dropped off by the Border Patrol and volunteers were scurrying to help the migrants wire home for money and buy bus tickets to destinations far afield.
The migrants with more money skip the long-haul buses and head for the airport.
Matthew Tragesser, press secretary at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, saw that in person as he was waiting at the airport in McAllen, Texas, for a flight back after visiting the border this week. He saw migrants with manila envelopes with labeling that read: “Please help me. I do not speak English. What plane do I need to take?”
He said when he was out in the field at midnight, every adult and child who arrived sought out Border Patrol agents and turned themselves in, figuring they would be quickly released with permission to head into the interior.
“They clearly know how to game the system,” Mr. Tragesser said. “After being taken into custody, they were quickly processed and moved into the interior of the country, all without COVID testing. This seems to be the Biden administration’s attempt to ‘manage’ the crisis by making it disappear away from the border as quickly as possible.”
Where they go spans the nation.
One border sheriff said people released into his county were destined for Florida, California, South Carolina, New York and Houston. Another border sheriff listed Pennsylvania and the Washington area as destinations for the migrants in his community.
The families and unaccompanied children are the most troubling cases in what is shaping up as a historic surge of illegal migration.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said it could be the worst year in two decades, and former Customs and Border Protection chief Mark Morgan predicts 1.4 million illegal immigrants will be apprehended this year.
While Mr. Mayorkas has shunned the “crisis” label, his department is acting like it is one. It issued a new frantic plea for volunteers on Thursday, saying they don’t even need to visit the border but can do a “virtual deployment,” interviewing children by video to try to hook them up with sponsors who will take them in.
The Associated Press reported that the surge of people is so overwhelming that some migrants are now being released “without any paperwork at all.”
The government doesn’t track where the families are headed, though they likely follow the same patterns as the unaccompanied children, and data does exist for them.
More than 160,000 children were placed with sponsors in the U.S. over the last four years — in most cases relatives already living in the country illegally — and the No. 1 destination was Harris County, home of Houston.
Los Angeles, Miami-Dade and Palm counties in Florida, and Prince George’s County in Maryland rounded out the top five.
The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is suing the Biden administration over its efforts to curtail deportations, said his state spends more than $850 million a year on services for illegal immigrants.
The biggest item is emergency hospital costs, which run between $579 million and $717 million a year, according to his breakdown.
Texas also pays $152 million for jail space for criminal migrants being held on charges or convictions of state law. Another $62 million to $90 million goes to Medicaid costs for illegal immigrants, and $30 million to $38 million goes to a Medicaid spinoff, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Unaccompanied Alien Children, or UACs, as they’re known in government-speak, cost Texas between $31 million and $63 million a year in schooling.
And although border security is a federal responsibility, Texas taxpayers are now on the hook as Gov. Greg Abbott deploys the state’s Department of Public Safety to plug the gaps he says the federal government is leaving.
Operation Lone Star, which began March 4, has made nearly 600 criminal arrests and referred more than 16,000 suspected illegal immigrants to Homeland Security — an average of more than 570 per day.
“Operation Lone Star is delivering results to keep our communities safe, but it is also exposing the continued failures of the Biden administration to secure the border,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee pointed to a new Fox News report that teachers in San Diego still aren’t conducting in-person classes for most students but are holding classes for migrant children being held at the San Diego Convention Center.
The school system told Fox News that the teachers were stepping forward as volunteers.