While justified criticism about President Biden's border fiasco rages on, an interesting and significant legal action has gone largely unnoticed.
Texan Brian Harrison, formerly President Trump's Department of Health and Human Services chief of staff, and co-plaintiff Steven Pace filed a 20-page brief in an Amarillo federal court which seeks to resume the Trump-era, no exception practice of returning unaccompanied minors to their home country.
The suit argues that the Biden administration hasn't given a legal defense for ending the policy, which was intended to protect Americans' health and well-being during the coronavirus pandemic. Named as defendants are Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
In his legal filing, Harrison, who is on the May 1 special election ballot for the vacant U.S. House of Representatives' seat that recently deceased Ron Wright held, has submitted a two-prong argument. First, in March 2020, the CDC invoked Title 42 which, allows the federal government to bar migrants from entering the U.S. during a health crisis. But on February 2, Biden ordered a CDC review which quickly resulted in the agency's February 17 notice that Title 42 would be suspended as it pertained to returning unaccompanied alien minors. And second, Harrison's filing claims that the Biden administration didn't follow the Administrative Procedure Act protocols which require federal agencies to justify any policy changes.
Since February, the inflow of unaccompanied minors has continued unabated. Worse, a space shortage at border holding facilities has forced the Biden administration to release the migrants, some COVID-infected, into the U.S. interior without a notice to appear at a later date in immigration court.
The most recent federal data showed that among 11,300 child and teen illegal immigrants in HHS care, 2,900 are laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 positive. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made Biden's policy clear when she confirmed that "we have been letting unaccompanied minors stay."
In an effort to curb negative publicity, Biden's Office of Personnel Management sent a memo to several government agency department heads requesting volunteer deployments for as long as four months to help Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deal with the unaccompanied minors' border surge. More border re-enforcements will be needed during the summer months when, traditionally, migration peaks.
Within a 24-hour period last week, CBP took in 111 individuals smuggled north in three separate trucks. CBP officials identified the perpetrators as possible human smugglers and said those in custody were foreign nationals from Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. None were wearing masks or other protective gear. Being forced to deal with the uptick in human trafficking detracts the CBP, as one of its officials said, from its "enduring mission priorities of countering terrorism, combating transnational crime, securing the border, facilitating lawful trade, protecting revenue and facilitating lawful travel."
Americans just now are seeing the flickering light at the end of the year-long COVID-19 lockdown tunnel, and are increasingly concerned that the border releases could spark another round of stay-at-home-orders. Released asylum seekers who tested COVID-positive at a Brownsville, Texas, bus station told local reporters that their destinations included North Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey. Documents leaked to the media predict that the surge will last more than seven months. Consequently, other states will soon be receiving COVID-positive migrants.
Testing after Customs and Protection releases migrants gives the illegal aliens freedom to travel unrestricted throughout the U.S., an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their jobs and businesses. Also taken away during the government-imposed lockdown was personal choice for Americans to educate their children in public schools, and individuals' constitutional rights to worship at churches, synagogues and mosques.
The question that the Biden administration should answer is what happens after the illegal aliens settle in the U.S. interior. On his border fact-finding mission, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) learned directly from the adults that their main reason for coming to the U.S. is to find a job. The under-18 population will require public education in already overcrowded and largely failing K-12 classrooms. Many among both the minor and adult population will need taxpayer-funded health care, and will have access to other affirmative benefits.
Although Americans take pride in their humanitarianism, the nation has been through a grueling year-plus of lockdowns and employment furloughs. Putting Americans first until normalcy returns is the course of action that the Biden administration should be ethically obligated to pursue.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]