By Rita Li
The head of the Border Patrol union warned that drug cartels would seize “complete control” of the southern border, as a Trump-era public health order to expel illegal immigrants is to expire on Monday.
“That we just don’t have anybody in the field, that we just can’t patrol the border,” National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd said during Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” after being asked about the “worst-case scenario” once the law ends on May 23.
He said the Border Patrol system is running out of capacity as overwhelmed border agents will be largely held up by processing asylum-seeking illegal immigrants, either refereeing their claims or expelling them back to their home countries.
“When you look right now, we already start our shifts with 50 percent of our resources not even performing enforcement activities. They’re in administrative duties. Once this explodes, we’re going to have nearly 100 percent of our people doing administrative duties rather than enforcement duties.”
“That’s going to give complete control to the cartels. That’s a scary situation to be in,” he added.
Judd was referring to Title 42, a COVID-19-era policy implemented during the Trump administration in March 2020 to quickly expel illegal immigrants on public health grounds. The measure has so far blocked over 1.7 million illegal aliens at the U.S.–Mexico border in the past two years, yet is set to expire on May 23 under President Joe Biden, given that public health conditions have changed.
According to a May 16 court document filing, U.S. border officials encountered more than 234,000 illegal immigrants at the U.S.–Mexico border in April, with 96,908 deported back to Mexico under Title 42.
It topped March’s 22-year high of just over 221,000 illegal immigrants and marked the fourth time that monthly border encounters have topped 200,000 under Biden.
The border crisis “clearly began” the time Biden took office in January 2021, according to Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). “If he ends Title 42 policies next week, we’re going to need a much taller chart,” he said in a May 18 Twitter post.
“By empowering the Cartels instead of @CBP [Customs and Border Protection], Biden is actively threatening the health and safety of our communities,” said Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.), the ranking member on the National Security subcommittee, on May 17.
Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) said the same day that “only the cartels are happy” about the lift.
The Biden administration has said it is preparing for scenarios of up to 18,000 encounters per day when the order lifts. Both Republicans and moderate Democrats, including those in tough races for November midterms, have warned about the lack of a comprehensive plan to tackle the potential immigrant inflow at the border once Title 42 lifts.
During a visit to the southwest border in the Rio Grande Valley on May 17, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said his department is prepared for the ending of Title 42.
“That does not mean that the border is open beginning on May 23,” Mayorkas said. “We continue to enforce the laws of this country. We continue to remove individuals who do not qualify for relief under the laws of this country.”
The annual deportation has fallen dramatically under Biden. In the financial year 2021, just over 59,011 were deported, compared to about 185,884 in 2020 and 267,258 in 2019, according to data released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
An April Convention of States Action and Trafalgar Group poll (pdf) said a majority of American voters, including nearly two-thirds of Hispanic voters, believe the Biden administration should close the southern border until a solution is reached.
U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays, a Trump appointee, had earlier granted a temporary restraining order blocking the administration from terminating the Title 42 emergency border powers.
The Biden administration has requested the federal judge, according to judicial notice, to make a decision on the lawsuit by Friday “to avoid uncertainty that could pose operational challenges.”
“The Biden administration is scrambling five days before their own deadline to end Title 42 because President Biden’s open border policies have created, in the words of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, an ‘unsustainable’ crisis for our country,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Fox News in a statement.
The Department of Homeland Security and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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