Webinar: Experts Say “Biden Effect” Threatens New Migrant Crisis

Campaign rhetoric, recent proposals for amnesty, and stripping tougher immigration and border policies implemented by the Trump Administration are resulting in a “Biden Effect” leading to a potential migrant crisis on the southern border. That was the warning of two immigration and border security experts at a recent webinar put on by the Center for Security Policy.

“There seems to be under this administration, a one-way flow, of people in, and they don’t go out,” noted Lora Ries, Senior Research Fellow for Homeland Security at The Heritage Foundation, citing the Biden Administration attempts to establish a 100-day moratorium on removal of illegal aliens already under a “final removal” order while terminating progress on the “border wall system.”

The view of the Biden administration as welcoming illegal immigration began even before inauguration and spurred a major increase in illegal crossings. Migrants “didn’t even wait for the election,” Ries noted, as expectation of a Biden win led to massive increases in migrant flows.  “These are crisis numbers,” Ries warned.

Recognizing how statements by U.S. politicians and changes to U.S. policy are understood by the very migrants seeking to cross the border is crucial to crafting policies that successfully deter them. Todd Bensman, Senior National Security Fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies, says that’s something the Trump administration understood.

“Trump was innovative,” Bensman said, “A lot of the things he did were acutely tailored to the thinking of aspiring migrants. They understood that migrants made decisions about whether to enter the border and claim asylum based on the fact that they would be released into the country and -win, lose, abandon or draw- they were in forever.” Bensman noted that the “remain in Mexico” policy, as it has come to be known, played a major role in convincing would-be migrants to stay put.

“In contrast, the ‘Biden Effect’ is almost wholly ignorant… ignorant or willful… they message information that makes migrants want to come, right now, in the greatest numbers possible,” Bensman warned.

“Remain in Mexico was a game changer,” Ries agreed, “implementing that stopped the caravans. It had a quick and visual real effect.”

On the topic of messaging, Ries noted the Biden administration’s efforts within their proposed legislation to erase the use of the legal term “alien” and replace it with “non-citizen” claiming “alien” is offensive.

“What they are really trying to do is erase the line between legal and illegal immigration,” Ries said, “But within the law there are sub-categories… to just erase all that and call them all ‘non-citizens’ is going to require a much more serious change to the immigration statute than just changing a word to play their word games.”

Ries described the comprehensive immigration bill proposed by the Biden Administration –which would grant amnesty to at least eleven million illegal aliens—as “a non-starter” because it includes no border security measures which was sure to alienate even Republicans viewed as soft on immigration reform.

Despite aggressive early moves such as canceling key Trump executive orders, Ries noted that Biden had done some backpedaling.

“[Biden] has said himself that he doesn’t want two million people on the border,” Ries said, “I don’t think he wants the optics of another border crisis, and I don’t think he wants the operational headache of it. Nonetheless, the half measures that he has taken, and the promises, have already had a result in increased numbers.”

Bensman noted that the Biden Administration, despite their statements and early policy moves, is also hostage to events on the border.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on when Biden is going to do this or that, today, tomorrow, or 6 months from now. As though the administration has any control whatsoever over the timeline,” Bensman warned, “The migrants have all the control. And they have already asserted that control by simply showing up and coming over.”

Bensman also noted that while Central American nations such as Guatemala and Mexico are helping to deter new migrant caravans, there is no guarantee that will last as their forces struggle to hold back surging migrant crowds.

“They may just decide we’re passing that up the chain,” Bensman said. He also warned that the optics of law enforcement and border security utilizing “tear gas and batons” was a challenge for countries no matter where along the chain of migration they occurred.

Those optics would be especially challenging for a Biden administration, with multiple Democrats in his caucus already calling for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and denigrating customs and border patrol officers.

“The left is treating ICE and Customs and Border Protection how other law enforcement has been treated all this year,” Ries said.

“The language that was used during the [Biden] campaign was rather insulting to ICE and CBP officers,” Ries added, “it is really going to hurt morale, I anticipate people leaving ICE and CBP because of it, which does not make Americans safer.”

Bensman agreed, noting that criticism and slander of ICE and CBP officers hurt Biden politically in traditionally blue districts in Texas.

About Kyle Shideler

Kyle Shideler is the Director and Senior Analyst for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the Center for Security Policy. Mr. Shideler specializes in Islamist groups operating in the United States, having spent over a decade researching and writing on their history, doctrine, and impact. Read his complete bio here. Follow Shideler on Twitter at @ShidelerK.