Current and former top border officials were left unconvinced by President Biden’s remarks in his State of the Union address on the crisis at the southern border — criticizing both the claims of success, the brevity of his remarks, and his appeal for an amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.
“It was underwhelming for the American people, and it was maddening for Border Patrol agents,” Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council told Fox News Digital on Wednesday. “All he did was deflect, pass the buck when he has the authority to fix this problem tomorrow.”
Mark Morgan, a former head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) during the Trump administration, hit out at Biden for only briefly mentioning the border in the hour-long speech.
“Here we are in the midst of the worst self-inflicted, unmitigated border security disaster in our lifetime,” the former CBP acting commissioner said. “And I think he spoke about it for four lines… he literally spent more time talking about baggage fees and the requirement that airlines charge families extra to set together than he did the border crisis.”
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Having been rocked by a migrant crisis at the southern border now into its third year, with a record 2.3 million migrant encounters and nearly 600,000 “gotaways” in FY 2022, Biden used his remarks to appeal for congressional action and to tout numbers that suggest recent border measures introduced in January are working. Those measures expanded a humanitarian parole program to allow 30,000 Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Cubans into the U.S. each month combined with an extension of Title 42 expulsions to include those nationalities.
Fox News confirmed Tuesday that numbers were down from the historic high of 251,000 encounters in December to approximately 150,000 in January — the lowest since February 2021. Biden cited stats that showed they were working.
“We’ve launched a new border plan last month, unlawful migration from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have come down 97%.” Biden said.
Biden also touted increases in staffing at the border, increased anti-smuggling operations and also increased fentanyl seizures at the border.
“We now have a record number of personnel working to secure the border, arresting 8,000 human smugglers and seizing over 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in just the last several months,” he said.
Judd warned that while the border measures have likely had an impact, that is unlikely to continue without further action, and pointed to what happened when the administration initially introduced the policy for Venezuelans only in October.
“A couple of months ago when he started extending Title 42 to Venezuelans, we saw an immediate drop for the first several days of the number of people crossing the border because the vast majority of people that were always at the border were Venezuelans. So we saw an immediate drop right then. But then the cartels, all they did was replace them with a different population. That’s why we saw so many more Nicaraguans. That’s why we saw so many more Cubans,” Judd said.
“So now all the cartels have to do is just go advertise services in other countries and replace the Nicaraguans, Cubans, Haitians and Venezuelans with a different population. And they always adapt. They’re very good at adapting. If you do not enforce Title 42 across the board with every single country, we’re never going to get out of this rut. The cartels will just adapt to our policies,” he said.
Morgan described the claim by Biden as “B.S. swamp speak” and noted that the drop in numbers can only be seen in light of the additional parole entries each month — which many conservatives and border hawks believe are illegal because they violate congressional limits on the use of parole
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“So they literally made a deal with illegal aliens: ‘Pretty please. If you stop illegally entering, what we’ll do is we’ll turn the other way while we continue to allow you to file a fraudulent claim or we’ll circumvent the entire system against the law that Congress enacted, and we’ll just parole you in exchange for you not illegally entering and then we’re going to claim victory,'” he said.
Officials also pushed back on the claims about the increased fentanyl seizures, as well as calls by Biden for increased technology screening at ports of entry — warning that it ignores the fentanyl slipping past agents in the field.
“The reason so much fentanyl is coming in this country and killed over 100,000 Americans is because 80% of the Border Patrol are taken off the line to process this historic surge,” former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan said on Fox & Friends First. “That’s an opportunity for [cartels] to move more fentanyl across, move more criminals across, move more known and suspected terrorists across. The reason this is happening is that the border’s wide open, and he caused it intentionally.”
In his remarks, Biden also Congress to pass parts of a sweeping immigration bill that he introduced at the beginning of his presidency — the key feature being a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. It’s one of a number of efforts by the administration to put the ball in Congress’ court on the matter, and officials have also hammered Republicans over what they says is a failure to provide additional funding at the border.
“America’s border problems won’t be fixed until Congress acts. If you won’t pass my comprehensive immigration reform, at least pass my plan to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border. And a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers, and essential workers,” he said.
Morgan said that Biden has only put forward an immigration bill, when what is needed is a border security bill, and accused the administration of holding border security “hostage.”
“They’re saying ‘we will not secure the borders, we will not do our constitutional duty to protect Americans from threats from outside our nation unless you give people that have been here illegally amnesty and a pathway to citizenship. Unless you give people that are here illegally in violation of the rule of law and our sovereignty unless you give them amnesty, we will not allow you to secure a border.’ And the president said the same thing last night,” he said.
Judd said that what agents on the front lines needed was immediate action, and there was no sign of that from the State of the Union.
“We have to look at an immediate solution because what we’re dealing with is chaos. And the only immediate solution is executive action and that’s what we’re not getting from this administration. We’re not getting any executive actions. So we can continue we can expect the chaos to continue for a long time,” he said.
“Ultimately, what needs to happen?” he said. “We do need laws to be passed, we need loopholes to be closed in a system that the cartels are very literally exploiting very easily. We have to have a law passed. But there are solutions in the immediacy. And that’s what we’re not getting.”
Homan, meanwhile, also said that Biden caused the crisis by reversing the winding down of Trump-era policies that created what he called “the most secure border in my lifetime” under the prior administration, noting that illegal immigration was at a 45-year low. He said he could fix it by reversing course.
“[Biden] knows why there’s a historic crisis on the border, but he’s going to sit there and blame Congress, Congress could take some action, absolutely, but he caused this, and he can turn this thing around on a dime. He could change it tomorrow if we put back the policies that the Trump administration proved were effective.”