A surge of people seeking to enter the US illegally and the release of thousands of people in border towns to await their immigration hearings has put the Biden administration on the defensive and prompted sharp criticism by Republicans.
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, has issued repeated press releases and made trips to the border to attack the administration.
“In eight short weeks, the Biden administration has destroyed all of President Trump’s progress in securing the southern border. The sad reality is, if Biden had done absolutely nothing eight weeks ago, we would be so much better off today. What’s happening in Yuma is unconscionable.”
Federal figures show a huge increase in apprehensions at the border since April 2020, when apprehensions bottomed out at about 17,000. The combination of the pandemic and an agreement with Mexico to keep would-be migrants and asylum seekers at the board led to a big drop in apprehensions. The number of people trying to cross the board has risen steadily since then. In President Trump’s last full month in office, 71,047 people were apprehended along the 2,000-mile southern border. In February, the number shot up to 96,974 – a 36% increase.
The Biden administration continues to expel 70% of the people apprehended, including invoking “Rule 42” to expel anyone with COVID symptoms — except for unaccompanied children. Asylum seekers who aren’t immediately deported have to test negative for COVID before they can be released to await a hearing in the US. However, during his press conference, Biden incorrectly said the US continues to expel an overwhelming majority of the families apprehended. A much smaller share of the families have been expelled than the adults traveling alone.
The Border Patrol predicts that apprehensions this year may hit a 20-year high.
The administration suspended the “shelter in Mexico” agreement, partly due to the condition of the facilities in Mexico, which are also overflowing. The administration has also declared support for a comprehensive immigration reform package that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers in the US long term. The administration also supports legalizing the status of some 700,000 “dreamers,” the undocumented children of immigrations who have spent most of their lives in the U.S.
The administration has also been releasing from overflowing detention facilities on the border thousands of people to await hearings on the pleas for asylum or immigration. The rising number of immigrants at the border has overtaxed the existing detention facilities. As a result, border patrol agents have been dropping thousands of families and individuals in towns all along the 2,000-mile border, often in places like Gila Bend, which has no shelters or places for the undocumented immigrants to stay.
The immigrants are given COVID tests and must be negative to qualify for the release. Federal officials say the infection rate among those tested as so far been lower than the overall infection rate in Texas.
The latest stimulus package included $110 million to help care for released immigrants at the border and the administration is planning to build additional tent detention centers in Tucson and elsewhere.
However, Gosar and other have both decried the overcrowded detention facilities, the restrictions that have drawn Mexican drug cartels into the business of human smuggling as well as the release of would-be immigrants from detention facilities.
Gosar has cosponsored HR 1883 that would halt all immigration for the next four years, fund completion of the border wall, speed deportation of illegal aliens, cut off funding for sanctuary cities, rescind executive orders concerning border enforcement and rescind amnesty programs that provide a way for people living here illegally to legalize their status.
Gosar represents Arizona's 4th Congressional District, which includes Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Florence and San Tan Valley.