- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2021

President Biden’s first full month in charge of the country’s borders set new records for illegal immigration, according to numbers released Wednesday that showed last month was the worst February ever when it comes to illegal immigrant children.

Nearly 9,500 unaccompanied juveniles were nabbed at the southwest border, part of an overall surge of migrants that is double what the country experienced last year at this time, and even runs ahead of the record-breaking 2019 border surge.

Across all demographics, Customs and Border Protection said it recorded more than 100,000 encounters with illegal immigrants. That’s the fifth-worst month in the last decade, with the four worse months all coming during that 2019 surge.

But February is usually a relatively slow month for illegal border crossings, and if this year’s trend holds, 2021 could top 2019.

Troy Miller, the acting chief at CBP, refused to talk about how many illegal immigrant children were in custody, claiming the number was a law enforcement secret. But leaked reports suggest the number is huge.

“We continue to struggle with the number of individuals in our custody,” Mr. Miller said.

The Biden administration has resisted efforts to label the surge a “crisis,” but the new numbers left little doubt among Republicans on Capitol Hill, who said laid blame directly at the feet of Mr. Biden and his policy changes.

He canceled tough Trump border policies, such as the so-called “Remain in Mexico” program, canceled cooperative agreements with Latin American partners, and has begun releasing illegal immigrant families directly into American communities, all of which have drawn a new wave of migrants who say they’re eager to take advantage of the generosity.

“It’s never too late to call a crisis a crisis,” said Rep. John Katko of New York, ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

For the month, Border Patrol agents nabbed 96,974 border jumpers. Another 3,467 migrants were encountered by CBP officers trying to enter ports of entry without permission.

The number of family migrants arrested by agents leaped from about 7,000 in January to nearly 19,000 in February. That’s still far from the record of more than 95,000 in May 2019.

Combined, unaccompanied children and families accounted for about 30% of the border jumpers. At their peak in 2019, they were more than 70% of the flow.

Some of the new numbers were skewed by the coronavirus situation, which allows some migrants to be immediately expelled. Many of those immediately tried again, meaning they were counted as multiple encounters.

Other border yardsticks are also grim.

Drug seizures are running well ahead of last year. Officials believe that more seizures generally means more is getting through.

And Mr. Katko said the number of sex-offender arrests at the border also is poised for a record year.

Congressional Democrats were largely silent on the new numbers, but at the White House Mr. Biden’s senior official for the southwest border, Roberta Jacobson, said the administration has a plan to try to stop illegal immigration in the future.

She suggested endemic poverty and violence are the reasons for surges in migration, and said Mr. Biden will request $4 billion in foreign aid to do nation-building in Central America.

At one point, though, Mrs. Jacobson seemed to acknowledge the Biden policies were at least partly responsible, saying “surges tend to respond to hope, and there was a sign of hope for a more humane policy after four years of pent up demand.”

“I certainly think the idea that a more humane policy may be in place may have driven people to making that decision,” she said.

Mrs. Jacobson also blamed smugglers for encouraging the current surge, saying they are using “disinformation” about Biden policies to tell migrants if they reach the U.S. they can gain a foothold.

The trouble for the Biden team is that the smugglers’ story is often true. Mr. Biden reversed a Trump policy that saw the unaccompanied children pushed back across the border, and he’s also overseeing catch-and-release of hundreds of families a day.

And even Mrs. Jacobson went off-message during the press briefing. While speaking in Spanish to deliver a message to would-be migrants that the border was closed and not to come, she actually said the border was open.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Biden team deserved blame for the border situation.

“This administration threw away all the good work we had done,” he told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.

He said the Trump policies the Biden administration now criticizes created the right set of incentives, discouraging illegal migration. The Biden message has reversed those incentives, he said.

• S.A. Miller contributed to this article.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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