On Tuesday, on WSPD Toledo’s The Scott Sands Show, Senator Portman discussed his recent trip to the southern border in El Paso, Texas, where he witnessed firsthand the ongoing migrant and unaccompanied children crisis.
Portman has made it clear that the Biden administration’s border crisis of unaccompanied children being detained at overcrowded Border Patrol stations is a direct result of its dismantling of the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications of removing those policies and how it would incentivize migration. Portman urged the administration to change course soon and put in place smart policies that address the need for legal and orderly processes for migration and reduce the pull factors that encourage these migrant and young children to make the treacherous journey north, while also securing our borders and protecting the American people. He has proposed immediate adjudications for asylum claims for migrants at the border, allowing these unaccompanied children to apply for asylum in their home countries or safe third countries, and finally making the E-Verify system mandatory for all employers to address the economic magnet that pulls many migrants here.
Excerpts on the interview can be found below and you can listen here.
PORTMAN ON WHAT HE SAW FIRSTHAND DURING HIS TRIP TO THE SOUTHERN BORDER:
“What I saw was chaos. You know, every five to ten minutes there was another report that there were crossers either coming or had already come across. There were Border Patrol on foot, on horseback, ATVs, helicopters. It’s just on and on and on. Most of the Border Patrol agents with whom I spoke had been on duty all day, they were working overtime and you know, they’re tired. It’s just more crossings, it’s a lot of work.
“The one thing that I think gets missed in this, is that these smugglers, these traffickers on the other side, you know, they’re pretty smart. So they’ll send a group of individuals, let’s say six to eight guys across. Border Patrol will muster and try to find them and run them down to try and stop them. And I talked to some of those migrants, I asked them why they were coming and you know, they all said the same thing basically, which is they can make a lot more money in the United States to take care of their families. All stuff, you know, you and I would understand, but that’s not reason for asylum. Asylum is about a fear of persecution. It’s not about economic issues.
“They would distract the Border Patrol with this first group and then they would send another group, maybe just a couple of guys loaded with drugs, somewhere else. So that’s what the Border Patrol sees. They see that these smugglers are pretty smart, you know, they’re distracting them. They’re also sending over families and kids because the Border Patrol has to process them and it takes a while to process them because they come into the system, particularly the unaccompanied kids are not being turned back. And because that takes time and gives smugglers the chance to run other stuff across the border.
“That’s why this year, this fiscal year, there’s a 360 percent increase in the fentanyl seizures which is the deadliest drug of all, as you know. We’ve talked about this a lot on your show over the last few years. But this is the drug that’s killing more Ohioans than anything else. And it’s just streaming over the border now. It used to come from China via the mail. And we did a good job controlling and then almost stopping that with some legislation that I’ve talked to you about. But now, they just ship it to the border because the southern border is so easy to cross. So it’s about kids, it’s about families, it’s about individuals, but it’s also about drugs and those drugs are coming right into our communities here in Ohio.”
PORTMAN ON THE DRAMATIC INCREASE OF UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN & FAMILIES AT THE SOUTHERN BORDER UNDER BIDEN ADMINISTRATION:
“It is dramatically different. I just got the numbers this morning from the Border Patrol as to last week. These numbers are probably not public yet, but last week there were 550 unaccompanied children crossing every day. In February, that number was around 300. In January, before the inauguration, that number was less than a hundred. So think about that increase. We’re talking about five, six times increase. With regard to families, 1,500 per day last week, 1,000 per day in February, and about 100 per day in January. So again, you’re looking there at a hundred-fold increase I guess.
“I mean it’s unbelievable that people aren’t calling it a crisis when in fact the numbers are overwhelming and the system is overwhelmed. So, you know, if you believe that children shouldn’t be staying in detention facilities that are overcrowded, inches from one another, not six feet apart, without being tested, by the way, for COVID, that’s what’s going on. These detention facilities were not built for this kind of a surge. And this administration made the decision.”
PORTMAN ON BIDEN ADMINISTRATION INCENTIVIZING MIGRATION BY DISMANTLING PRIOR POLICIES WITH NO REPLACEMENTS:
“They’re actually releasing people into the country, families into the country now, without giving them a court date. In other words saying, ‘Go ahead, go wherever you’re going to go, and when you get there we ask you to contact the local ICE office.’ They give them a list, I have the document that they’re giving them. It is 24 major metropolitan areas with the number for the ICE office, which is the interior law enforcement office and so they’re not even giving them court dates anymore because they can’t handle the logistics quickly enough to figure out when the court date will be. So it creates an additional disincentive to show up when you aren’t even being told about your court date.
“It’s a system that’s out of control, everybody knows that, and it’s chaotic. And it’s not good for, by the way, the kids and families that are making this difficult and dangerous trip up from Central America. And it’s a situation where the administration decided on day one to make these huge changes in immigration policy but they didn’t put anything in its place. And even if you believe that there should have been major changes, of course you would have been prepared for the surge in terms of having shelters, facilities, and so on and they just didn’t do that either.
“So, it’s a situation where the administration was not taking responsibility. They were just following, really, a political agenda by opening up without being prepared for it and everybody gets hurt in that process — the Border Patrol agents who are caught in the middle, these kids who are living in conditions that you wouldn’t want your own children to be living in and of course, those communities that are told to take on these families when there’s really no process in place to get them through the asylum process.
“By the way, there are 1.2 million people on the backlog for asylum cases. The success rate is about 15 percent, that’s the latest numbers we have from 2019. It’s only 15 percent of the cases are successful for those who are claiming asylum. And, you know, it’s three, four, five years to get that asylum process completed, so it’s not a good situation. 50 percent of those people who are involved with asylum cases now have a removal order. That’s based on I think the latest data we have on them is 48 percent, 48 percent of those people have a removal order, meaning they haven’t gone through the process. They haven’t shown up for their court dates so they have a removal order out.
“But the interior immigration folks are just overwhelmed, so they don’t have the ability to actually follow through on those removal orders and deport people. In fact, those deportations have been paused for 100 days during the Biden administration in any case. They did that on day one. So they tell me, and I talked to an ICE agent about this on the border, and she told me that they are focused on criminals, not on people who don’t go to their court cases.
“So, if you’re a smuggler, you have all this information, you can make stuff up to get people to give you money to take them on this dangerous journey, but you can also just talk about the facts. The facts are it’s just much easier to try and come into the United States now so it’s worth you taking a chance and that’s how they’re lining people up. And the numbers speak for themselves.”
PORTMAN ON POLICIES THAT SHOULD BE ENACTED TO DISINCENTIVIZE PEOPLE FROM MAKING DANGEROUS JOURNEY TO THE BORDER:
“We ought to focus on helping to stop this crisis that is growing. And by the way, again, it is not humane to encourage these people to make that difficult journey up north and then put them in these detention facilities. And you know, there needs to be an orderly and legal process here.
“So, I made a number of proposals, Scott. I said, ‘Look, I want to work with everybody – the administration, Democrats, Republicans – to actually address this crisis.’ One, you’ve got to help the Border Patrol more, they need more resources right now. They need more technology and sensors, and that sort of thing. They need the wall to be completed. You remember the fence that was being built – in this one sector I was in, there was about 150 miles of fence that was supposed to be constructed. They’ve constructed about 124 miles of it but they’ve left gaps, literally, the contractors just walked away, because day one the Biden administration said they’re going to stop the fence, stop the wall. So there construction material just lying on the ground, and Border Patrol told me that it’s a real hit to their morale for them to be running around trying to catch these people who are running through the gaps because the construction material is right there and the people just left. There’s literally parts of the temporary fence that they’re just pushing over. So help the Border Patrol.
“Second, we’ve got to have these asylums at the border. Rapid adjudication of asylums right there at the border. Don’t spend four or five years sending people into our communities, expecting them to show up. Just do these asylums right there and that is something that we had done on a pilot basis in the Trump administration, it was discontinued in November. We’ve got to get back to that and put some money behind it. It’s worth it, that’s a good expenditure of resources. Get these decisions made quickly. Let people know yes or no. If it’s no, you send them back to their country of origin.
“And I think everybody should be for that. I mean, why would you be for having these asylums drag on and on and on? And we should do it with every new migrant coming in. In other words, the 1.2 million person backlog, of course we should address that. But also, we should just immediately do it because that would disincentive people. They’ll be told, ‘Look if you come across the border now, you will actually have a hearing.’ And a 15 percent chance on average that you’re going to get asylum. And if you don’t have a credible claim, don’t bother to come. If you do the backlog, they’ll know, ‘Heck I can be there for four or five years before they get to me in the backlog.’ So I think doing it now for the people who are coming is really important.”
PORTMAN ON MAKING E-VERIFY MANDATORY TO REDUCE THE PULL FACTOR OF MIGRANTS TRAVELING TO THE BORDER:
“We do have millions of people coming to our country every year legally. I support that. I even support expanding it with regard to some of these temporary work programs, like the H2B program, make it regulated, make it legal, have it work. The other thing that I strongly support, Scott, is putting in place a real employer sanction. In other words, if you hire someone illegally you should be sanctioned for that.
“The E-Verify program is one that should be strengthened. It’s not mandatory now, in my view it should be mandatory and it should also have technology associated with it so that if people show up with fraudulent documents, which they do – driver’s licenses, Social Security cards which you can buy on the street for $25 – then there ought to be a technology we can deploy right away – all these great tech companies that we have, that’s a good use of their expertise – to be able to match photographs and so on to make sure that you’re the person that it says it is. And that would shut down so much of it because it is the magnet. I mean people want to come into the United States for economic reasons. I understand that, I really do. You always want make sure your family has a better life. And yet, this system needs to be legal. And if only legal workers can get work, it will change dramatically what happens at the border.”