The Heritage Foundation’s homeland security team responded Friday to President Biden’s falsehood-filled interview with NBC News, which was released Friday. The president made numerous false or misleading statements about immigration and the border crisis during the interview, prompting these experts to correct the record:
Claim #1: Biden inherited “one god-awful mess at the border” from the Trump administration.
Former Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf: “The border crisis is entirely of the Biden administration’s own making, and it’s critical to understand the context in which it’s happening. In the final months of the Trump administration, we saw border apprehensions increase because more people were coming illegally in the hopes of a Biden election victory. However, it wasn’t until the Biden administration took office that monthly apprehensions exploded, as Department of Homeland Security numbers make clear.
“This administration inherited a border that was under control thanks to strong and effective action by the Trump administration. In May 2019—the height of the 2019 crisis—140,000 illegal aliens were caught crossing the border. However, by November 2019, this number was down to 42,000, and by April 2020, apprehensions were down to about 17,000. This decrease was thanks to the Migrant Protection Protocols, which essentially eliminated fraudulent asylum claims at the southern border; asylum cooperative agreements with Northern Triangle countries, which gave individuals the ability to apply for protection closer to their home country instead of the southern border; and more construction of the border wall. Every single one of these effective policies was still in place on Jan. 20, 2021, when President Biden undid them with the stroke of a pen in the first days of his administration. We’ve seen the numbers skyrocket since. Biden inherited the most secure border in U.S. history, and promptly blew it apart.”
Claim #2: “It is getting urgent action now.”
Mike Howell, Heritage senior advisor for government relations and former DHS oversight counsel: “This claim is fatuous on its face. Vice President Harris, who President Biden tapped several weeks ago to lead the crisis response, won’t even visit the Northern Triangle until June. Holding Zoom calls and calling for amnesty is not ‘urgent action.’ Building more intake facilities is not urgent action, either. These facilities are simply expediting the processing and release of illegal aliens into the country so the administration can get a public relations win. ‘Urgent action’ would be re-starting construction of the border wall that our Border Patrol routinely says is needed. It would be restoring the Migrant Protection Protocols and asylum cooperative agreements with Northern Triangle countries. It would be untying the hands of ICE and other law enforcement to allow them to deport those here illegally. Instead, the Biden administration is fiddling while the border burns.”
Claim #3: “For example, a month ago, we had thousands of young kids in custody in places they shouldn’t be, and controlled by the Border Patrol. We have now cut that down dramatically.”
Lora Ries, senior research fellow for homeland security and former acting DHS deputy chief of staff: “While the number of unaccompanied minors in Customs and Border Protection custody has decreased, the numbers are clear: most of those minors are simply being transferred from one government agency to another—in this CBP custody to the Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, more than 23,000 minors are in now federal custody as of a few days ago, more than 21,000 of which have been transferred to HHS. It’s the public policy equivalent of a child cleaning his room by throwing everything in the closet—nothing’s actually fixed even if it looks better on first glance. And no matter who has custody of these minors, the Biden administration is doing nothing to eliminate the incentives for Central and South American parents to continue sending their children to the border. Until that happens, these sky-high numbers will persist.”
Claim #4: “Hey, look, here’s what happened – the failure to have a real transition. The two departments that didn’t give us access to virtually anything were the immigration [department] and the Defense Department. So, we didn’t find out they had fired a whole lot of people, that they were understaffed considerably.”
Former Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf: “What the president of the United States said is untrue, plain and simple. At the Department of Homeland Security, we provided the transition team with more than 200 extensive briefings on homeland security issues, the majority of which dealt with the border, immigration policy, and the processes and procedures we had in place to secure the border and reduce asylum fraud. Those meetings are available for any reporter or average American citizen to request via the FOIA process, and I encourage them to do so.
“During the transition, the incoming Biden administration was made fully aware of the consequences of undoing the effective policies that had fixed the previous crisis and driven illegal crossings down substantially. They heard those warnings directly from career appointees, CBP law enforcement officers, and others. They disregarded those warnings and dismantled the Trump administration’s policies for political reasons. Now we’re seeing the consequences.
“It’s also untrue to claim anyone in DHS was fired during the transition. Not only is this factually incorrect, but it is illegal to remove any career executives for 120 days during a change in administration. The Biden administration is not being truthful. It’s time for the media and other officials to demand evidence of these claims. The American people deserve to know the facts.”
Claim #5: “Well, look, it is way down now. We’ve now gotten control.”
Former Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan: “Nothing about the border crisis is ‘under control.’ In just two months, more than 334,000 illegal aliens have been apprehended trying to cross our southern border, including 162,000 in April—the highest back-to-back monthly total in more than 15 years. CBP officials also estimate more than 170,000 illegal aliens this fiscal year have evaded apprehension and are already in the U.S. Additionally, ICE is cutting arrests of violent criminal illegal aliens by 50%. The list goes on. This crisis is unsustainable and the Biden administration’s efforts to get more efficient in facilitating the release of illegal aliens into our communities, rather than addressing the crisis, isn’t the answer.
“From day one, the Biden administration knowingly pursued policies that would spark this crisis, because it perceives a political advantage in importing hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens. The overwhelming majority are here to stay, as DHS’ own numbers show. This is by design. They have allowed their ideology to transcend common sense and their politically driven strategy to set policy, rather than what’s in the best interest of the country. The Biden administration and many members of Congress refuse to be honest with the American people, as their failure to acknowledge the reality concerning the immense costs to our law enforcement, working Americans, or our communities shows—they just see an electoral goldmine. This crisis is not slowing down, and the facts make that clear.”
Claim #6: “For example, we have — they didn’t plan for, which it comes every year, this flow, whether it is 22,000 or 10,000, they didn’t have the beds that were available. They didn’t plan for the overflow. They didn’t plan for the Department of Health and Human Services to have places to take the kids from the Border Patrol and put them in beds where there was security and there were that people who could take care of them. So, there is a significant change right now, a significant change in the circumstance for children coming to and at the border.”
Former Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan: “This is an outrageous claim – in November 2020, CBP under the Trump administration had fewer than 800 unaccompanied alien children, family units, and single adults in custody. In March of this year, that number had exploded to more than 10,000. Even though apprehensions started increasing in 2020, as growing numbers of illegal migrants gambled on a potential Biden election victory and subsequent amnesty, the Trump administration had strong policies in place to quickly and responsibly process and deport most of these individuals. This meant there was no systemic issue with backlogs or overcrowded CBP or HHS facilities. The Biden administration broke the system, and now has the temerity to blame the Trump administration for not implementing policies to anticipate their reckless behavior. It’s truly astounding.
“President Biden is right about one thing, though. The circumstances for children at the border have significantly changed. President Biden’s open-borders agenda is only encouraging more unaccompanied minors and families to make the dangerous journey to the border, creating not only a humanitarian crisis, but also a windfall for the drug cartels and smugglers who profit off human misery, including, sadly, an ever-increasing number of children.
“As my colleague Lora Ries recently pointed out:
“These vicious organizations are banking profits of $14 million a day, and likely more, from trafficking women, children, and families through Central America and across the border. Many of these women and children suffer from horrific abuse, malnourishment, exposure, and sickness along the route, and others are left to die in the wilderness if they get lost or can’t keep up. The large numbers of people surging to the border are a serious public health risk, and are facilitating the spread of COVID among vulnerable populations, and if individuals don’t catch the virus during the trip, they are likely to do so while packed on top of each other in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities. Children are often kept in these conditions for up to 10 days, because the Border Patrol simply does not have capacity to handle the surge created by the Biden administration’s policies. When they are sent to overflow facilities, the results sometimes prove disastrous, as well.”