The Crisis at the Border Has Vindicated Trump | Opinion

Though President Biden has refused to call it what it is, there is a crisis unfolding on our southern border. The U.S. is facing the biggest migrant surge it's seen in twenty years. Customs and Border Protection agents are overwhelmed, the Department of Homeland Security's surge force was activated, and now FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency which has been focused on the pandemic for over a year, has been asked to assist.

This isn't just a crisis; it's a national disaster. Worse, it's one that was entirely preventable.

The current surge of migrants at the border should come at no surprise, given President Biden's rush to reverse the Trump Administration's important border security policies on his first day in office, including reinstituting the "catch and release" policy that allows migrants into the U.S. after crossing the border illegally, and ending the Remain in Mexico policy that asked asylum seekers to wait for a hearing before entering the U.S.

What happened next was predictable: Biden's campaign rhetoric and his termination of Trump's strict border policies signaled to thousands that our borders are open. The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 100,000 migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February. The alarming number of unaccompanied minors tripled in the last two weeks alone. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that DHS expects to encounter more migrants on the southern border than we've seen in over two decades.

The dangerous migrant journey turned out to be no deterrent against the strong pull of potential U.S. citizenship, leading to what we are witnessing now: a humanitarian crisis on our southern border which has empowered cartels and human traffickers. The abuse faced by women and children is rampant.

Not to be outdone, four individuals on the terror watchlist have been arrested attempting to illegally cross the southern border since October, something the Trump administration warned against; of course, we don't know how many have evaded arrest. But it's the smugglers who are really gaming the system, preying on overwhelmed Border Patrol agents preoccupied with families and unaccompanied children who are caught for processing and then released.

Former President Donald Trump at CPAC
Former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. A lawmaker in Ohio wants to name a park after trump Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Administration's short-term response, including calling for volunteers, building additional temporary facilities, and fast-tracking the release of unaccompanied minors into the interior of the United States, often in the custody of individuals themselves unlawfully in the United States, do not amount to a solution. Neither is proposing the legalization of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants; without meaningful border and interior enforcement, this is little more than further incentive to those who would break our laws.

But if there's something we can all agree on, it's that we need a solution. Most Americans are compassionate and sensible. Liberal, conservative, or center, we all hate what is happening at our border. But most Americans also still believe in the rule of law. The progress we saw over the last year in managing the border was a result of successful policies that ensured our lawful immigration system was strengthened by deterring unlawful immigration. Whatever you think of President Trump, maybe now we can admit that, given the unfolding border crisis.

The Biden Administration should build upon those successful policies and demonstrate to the American people that they are willing to be serious about enforcement, instead of tearing down those policies that were working merely because they dislike the man who instituted them.

The importance of robust enforcement as a necessary prerequisite to discussing a legislative solution is borne out through recent history. In 2005, bipartisan legislation addressing immigration reform was introduced in Congress. Seeking traction in a Republican-controlled House and Senate, President George W. Bush called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and supported a four-pillar approach: Secure our borders, enhance interior and worksite enforcement, create a temporary worker program, and resolve the status of illegal immigrants already here.

It was this last point—amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for those who had come illegally—that was the poison pill that sunk the effort. Like previous immigration reform in the 1980's, which gave amnesty with the promise of increased border security, it only got us another, worse problem; Conservatives in Congress argued that Bush first needed to secure the border and implement effective exit systems to ensure the pathway to citizenship wasn't open ended. Conservatives wanted to know who was in our country, and they didn't want illegal immigrants taking jobs away from those lawfully here.

More recently, Congress again tried to pass a comprehensive immigration bill, but when those efforts stalled, President Obama acted unilaterally and issued an Executive Order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which granted de-facto amnesty, including work authorization and access to various Federal benefits, to people brought to the United States as children. But then President Obama tried to extend that de facto amnesty to a significantly larger group, including parents of DACA eligible individuals. Not unexpectedly, these actions have been in litigation since.

In seeking to end DACA as executive overreach, President Trump called on Congress to come up with a permanent solution—meaning legislation. Importantly, he paired that call for legislation with a robust enforcement policy that signaled any legislative agreement would be honored by the executive.

Unilateral executive action is a poor—and likely unconstitutional—tool to solve this problem with, and as evidenced by recent history, it does not lead to a permanent solution. Immigration laws are properly debated in the halls of Congress, not created unilaterally in the offices of the White House.

President Biden must learn from history's lessons. Secure the border. Know who is in our country. Require employers to verify worker authorization of all employees. Enforce the law as written—humanely of course, but effectively and efficiently as well.

Americans deserve a fair, secure, humane, and transparent immigration system. It is only with true enforcement that we will get the immigration system that we deserve.

Dr. Ben Carson is the Founder and Chairman of the American Cornerstone Institute and the 17th Secretary of HUD.

The views in this article are the writer's own.