Controlled Chaos

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks at a press conference about immigration and Title 42 on May 5, 2023 in Brownsville, Texas. (Photo by Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)

The lifting of Title 42—which allowed the government to use the COVID pandemic to expel migrants for public health purposes—has not resulted in “chaos” at the border, according to most press accounts. Intended or not, this is a great example of managing expectations. Because President Joe Biden predicted things would be “chaotic for a while” after Title 42 expired, “chaos” at the border suddenly became the political metric to watch for, as if a monumental crisis absent chaos is no big deal.

On March 29, 2019, then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson commented on 4,000 apprehensions at the border that week. “I know that a thousand overwhelms the system. I cannot begin to imagine what 4,000 a day looks like, so we are truly in a crisis.” 

Last Tuesday, just before Title 42 ended, 11,000 migrants were apprehended. On Wednesday, another 11,000. On Thursday, it dropped to 10,000 and on Friday it edged down to a mere 6,200. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claimed this as proof the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 plan was working. He told ABC News on Sunday, “Over the past two days, the United States Border Patrol has seen an approximately 50 percent drop in the number of people encountered at our southern border.”

This is typical of the larger problem. A good talking point on a news show is no substitute for a successful policy. Pan out to a more meaningful unit of time, and you can see the disaster for what it is. In fiscal year 2022, a record-breaking 2.2 million migrants were apprehended, up from 1.7 million the year before. 

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