Let’s Put America First and Secure the Border

November 08, 2022

By Chad Wolf

The American people have been expressing a clear preference for America First policies that have been proven to secure the border over policies that make up an open-border, anti-enforcement, America Last strategy.   

For the first time in my lifetime, we have an administration that is outright refusing to secure our Nation’s borders. Every policy decision out of the Biden Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has effectively undermined border security, fueled illegal immigration and fentanyl into our communities, and enriched the Mexican drug cartels. Here’s what the country looks like today: the 2.38 million illegal aliens DHS apprehended at the southern border last fiscal year exceeds the total number apprehended during the entire Trump Administration. This includes 98 known and suspected terrorists, an alarming national security indicator that bad actors view the southern border as the easiest way to gain access to the U.S. One of the cruelest aspects of this failed strategy is the nearly 300,000 unaccompanied alien children trafficked to the border during the Biden Administration and subjected to horrific physical, emotional, and sexual abuse along the way. And the crisis is impacting every community in the country as more than 71,000 Americans died of fentanyl overdoses in 2021, and it is now the leading cause of death of young Americans. Worse still, the cartels are now reportedly generating $13 billion a year smuggling and trafficking migrants to the border, up from $500 million in 2018.

This is tragic and it’s unfolding in front of the American people – and they don’t like what they see.  When an overwhelming majority of Americans say it is important to secure the border and end illegal immigration, that is a clear repudiation of the federal government’s inaction.

Make no mistake: the Biden Administration has replaced ‘America First’ with a failed, undesirable ‘America Last’ approach to border security and immigration. And the current Congress has let them get away with it. Poll after poll show that the American people reject these unsuccessful policies and are demanding new ideas and solutions to solve this problem. 

As the former Acting Secretary of DHS, I fought for an America First border strategy and worked to successfully implement it. That involved listening to Border Patrol agents to hear what they needed to make their job easier and come up with innovative solutions. The clearest example is the Migrant Protection Protocols, or the Remain in Mexico policy. By forcing economic migrants to wait in Mexico until their immigration court date, we curbed abuse of the asylum system and disrupted the cartels’ smuggling and trafficking networks. The Biden Administration’s decision to replace this policy with one that focuses on quickly processing illegal aliens made the Border Patrol’s difficult job impossible. It also incentivized the record number of illegal aliens showing up at the border over the last two years. 

A new Congress will have an important role to play in this fight.  In addition to providing intensive oversight, Congress can demonstrate to the American people that deterring illegal immigration is a priority by pursuing strong border security legislation. Any bill put forth in the early days of 2023 should include three key elements.  First, Remain in Mexico should be codified in law to require all administrations to apply this policy across the board. Second, Congress should grant the DHS secretary the authority to immediately expel aliens at the border under certain circumstances, similar to how the Title 42 health authority was used as an early tool to combat the spread of COVID-19. The combination of illegal aliens and fentanyl currently pouring over the border is unsustainable, and such authority would be highly effective in restoring order at the border. Third, Congress must systematically reform the asylum system to better root out fraudulent and frivolous claims that are made by illegal aliens for the primary purpose of being allowed into the U.S.

Congress must faithfully uphold its responsibilities to the American people by conducting robust oversight of DHS. Levels of monthly border apprehensions that once seemed implausible have become the new norm under the Biden Administration. This is unacceptable, and both the people encouraging these levels of immigration and doing nothing to stop it need to be held accountable.

The America First border solution is straightforward: secure the border, end human trafficking, and defeat the cartels. If the Biden Administration will not pivot strategies to accomplish these goals, the next Congress needs to compel these outcomes. That is what the American people want, that is what the American people deserve.

Chad Wolf is the former Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Executive Director and Chair of the Center for Homeland Security and Immigration at the America First Policy Institute.

Read this Op-Ed in Townhall here