Angry About Border Conditions? Blame Congress

The woke social media over the Fourth of July was something to behold. On America’s birthday, posts were full Trump-baby angst, references to illegal militias, treasonous criminality, and concentration camps, and carefully styled photos of summer desserts that spelled out “close the camps” on top of seasonal fruit.

Because you know what you do if you think child migrants are actually being tortured by your government and dying in concentration camps? You channel all your first-world, virtue signaling rage into the creation of artsy and seasonally appropriate desserts that are just perfect for that People photoshoot.

But the misplaced rage was not limited to social media. In the annals of Wokes versus People Living in Reality, this week was one for the books. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the avatar of lefty rage-emotes everywhere, visited the border and had a complete meltdown.

Ocasio-Cortez told reporters she “was not safe from the officers,” and that migrants were forced to drink out of toilets while being subject to “psychological warfare.”

“This has been horrifying so far,” she tweeted. “It is hard to understate the enormity of the problem. We’re talking systemic cruelty w/ a dehumanizing culture that treats them like animals.”

If what she’s saying is true—members of Congress being threatened for asking questions, migrants housed in World War II-style detention camps with only toilet water to drink, “mass atrocities” being perpetuated by the government—then we are indeed in a crisis.

But none of this is true. None of the migrants housed on the border are being held against their will. While Ocasio-Cortez provided no photos of the toilets from which she claims migrants are forced to drink, those familiar with border detention facilities suggest she is referring to this type of drinking facility which is connected to a toilet—but does not dispense actual toilet water from the faucet, as she claims. And, as former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson pointed out this week, the practice of holding migrants in “cages” after detention started under President Obama.

In fact, the entire statutory regime under which the Trump Administration is handling the border crisis is the same as it was under President Obama. Because, despite years of reasons to act, Congress has refused to change the laws governing immigration, the agencies in charge of handling it, or the resources available to them. The conditions at the border remain largely the same as they have been for years, and Border Patrol remains overwhelmed and undermined.

Reality Check: 2014 vs. 2019
This is not to say that conditions at the border aren’t terrible. They are. The Border Patrol is out of space and rapidly running out of money, and Health and Human Services, the department responsible for taking care of unaccompanied minors, is underfunded. It’s why the president declared a humanitarian crisis and asked Congress for more resources to house the current influx of migrants. (For over two months, the Democrats called the crisis fake, and blocked humanitarian funding—including more beds—17 times.)

The problem with the Democrats’ current outrage is not necessarily the subject matter. It’s fine to call out terrible conditions where they exist. But the problem arises when the outrage appears politically expedient. And it’s compounded when Democrats refuse to act on any viable solutions.

Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) joined Ocasio-Cortez on last week’s visit, and expressed the same levels of outrage as she did. However, Castro also visited an Obama-era facility in 2015, with very similar conditions. He called the visit “very emotional,” and joined more than 100 other Democrats in sending a letter to Jeh Johnson, asking him to end the use of family detention facilities.

But missing were the Trump-derangement levels of rage seen from the same Democrats this week, the comparisons to concentration camps, the claims about treating migrants as “animals.”

Nor was there any appreciation for the sheer drastic increase in numbers with which Border Patrol now must contend because of the agitation among immigrant activists who have pushed people to throng our border.

In fiscal year 2014, when President Obama declared a humanitarian crisis, the Border Patrol in the Southwest border sectors apprehended 136,986 migrant families and children. In just the first eight months of fiscal year 2019, Border Patrol agents have apprehended a total of 389,259 families and children—a 184 percent increase.

Moreover, the 2019 total includes adults falsely claiming to be the parents of children who aren’t theirs, or migrants over the age of 18 posing as children. In April, Border Patrol officials said they had identified more than 3,000 of these “fake families,” and the trend is growing.

In Tijuana, groups of men are attempting to purchase or steal children to accompany them to the United States—where entry with a child will facilitate an earlier release into the country where they are supposed to wait for a court date they will never attend. The going rate for a child is reportedly $350.

What Solution Do Democrats Want?
While Democrats howl about conditions at the border and the detention of migrants, it’s worth asking, what is their preferred solution?

Federal law, sensibly, does not allow an immigration official to turn migrants loose as soon as they are apprehended. This is particularly true with unaccompanied children. The law requires detained migrants to be processed, asylum claims adjudicated, and, when it comes to children, a determination of whether or not the adult they are traveling with is, in fact, the child’s parent.

All of this takes time, and more of it when the Border Patrol is overwhelmed with thousands more migrants arriving each day. Many times, adults and families claiming asylum are released into the interior of the country to await a court date years in the future. Unaccompanied children are handed over to Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, where agency officials work to reunite children with family they already have in the United States, or place them in foster care.

In a bizarre twist during the debate over funding humanitarian resources at the border, House Democrats demanded that HHS not be able to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement when it came to placing children—thereby reducing the ability of HHS to know if it was placing children with safe families.

Everything CBP, HHS, and ICE are doing complies with existing federal law. The agencies, as they have been for years, are underfunded, understaffed, and undermined by the selective outrage of Democrats who apparently have just awakened to these problems and would rather virtue signal than address them meaningfully.

But the underlying question in all of this is, “What policies would Democrats prefer?” Letting unaccompanied children loose into the streets? Releasing everyone who is apprehended coming across the border, with little regard for who they are and what they’re really doing here?

Based on their responses in the last debate, the answer is yes. Democrats either have no solutions to the border crisis, or offer inexplicable ones like “fixing climate change.”

If this is the best they have to offer, Democrats are not a serious or credible participant in addressing conditions at the border—or the statutory regime they’ve had the ability to alter for years. They can scream about Trump all they want, but the reality is, the fault doesn’t lie with his administration or even with previous ones. It sits squarely on the shoulders of the lawmakers who would rather tweet and name-call than reform the law or secure the border.

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Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

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About Rachel Bovard

Rachel Bovard is senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute and Senior Advisor to the Internet Accountability Project. Beginning in 2006, she served in both the House and Senate in various roles including as legislative director for Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and policy director for the Senate Steering Committee under the successive chairmanships of Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), where she advised Committee members on strategy related to floor procedure and policy matters. In the House, she worked as senior legislative assistant to Congressman Donald Manzullo (R-Il.), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas). She is the former director of policy services for the Heritage Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelBovard.