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The Morning Dispatch: Border Woes Continue for Biden
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The Morning Dispatch: Border Woes Continue for Biden

A makeshift refugee camp in Del Rio, Texas, leads the White House to resume deportations of Haitian nationals.

Happy Tuesday! One of these years, Aaron Rodgers will finally be too old to drag the Green Bay Packers to the playoffs—but it doesn’t look like it’ll be in 2021.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11, according to results from a new clinical trial published by both companies on Monday. Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that U.S. regulators will “certainly” have enough data to approve vaccines for that age range “this fall.”

  • White House pandemic coordinator Jeff Zients announced Monday that, after 18 months, the United States will lift travel restrictions for foreigners who are fully vaccinated beginning in November. Travelers seeking to enter the United States will need to show proof of both vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test within three days of departure.

  • The State Department confirmed on Monday that the Biden administration will raise its refugee admissions cap from 62,500 this budget year to 125,000 in the budget year beginning October 1—though the administration signaled it will likely fail to reach that full capacity due to the pandemic. Because the approximately 40,000 Afghan civilians evacuated to the United States in recent weeks are not technically considered refugees, the United States has only admitted 7,637 refugees over the past year—the lowest number in the program’s 40-year history.

  • CBC News projected Monday night that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won enough seats in Canada’s general election yesterday to form another minority government and reinstall Trudeau as prime minister. The final results are likely to look very similar to the composition of the House of Commons when Trudeau called a snap election last month.

  • President Biden signed an executive order on Friday authorizing the Treasury Department to sanction all sides of the Ethiopian civil war “responsible for, or complicit in, prolonging the conflict, obstructing humanitarian access, or preventing a ceasefire.” The sanctions have yet to be formally applied, however, and Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed seemed to rebuff the Biden administration’s demands in a statement over the weekend.

  • ISIS-K—the terrorist group behind the suicide bombing in Kabul last month that killed dozens—claims to have carried out several attacks on Taliban convoys near Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad over the weekend. The organization alleged that 35 Taliban operatives were killed or wounded in the blasts.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday that the House will vote on legislation this week to fund the government through December 2021 and suspend the debt limit through December 2022. Without action, the federal government would shut down at the end of the month and reach its debt ceiling at some point in October.

  • Former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, announced Monday he is running for governor of Nevada, and Ohio GOP State Sen. Matt Dolan formally launched his bid to succeed retiring Sen. Rob Portman.

  • Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said over the weekend that ten Chinese aircraft entered Taiwanese airspace on Friday, one day after Taiwan announced a $9 billion increase in military spending.

  • A student opened fire at Russia’s Perm State University Monday, killing six people and wounding 28 others before being shot and detained by police. Officials have not yet identified a motive for the shooting.

The Migration Surge Comes to Del Rio, Texas

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.)

The crush of migrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border has been out of the news lately—not because the number of crossings has dwindled (they continue to set record highs), but because there’s been so much else going on. But even slow-boil political problems break into the headlines now and then, particularly when explosive imagery starts to make its way around social media. So it’s been in recent days, on both sides of the ideological-media divide.

The border is long, and the crisis is diffuse, but this week’s controversy has taken place at a particular scene: A bridge across the Rio Grande in the small Texas border town of Del Rio, where a huge congregation of migrants, having overwhelmed regional border security’s capacity to process them in a timely fashion, have assembled a makeshift refugee camp.

The relatively remote location—about 150 miles west of San Antonio—has turned into a site for a monsoon of migration in recent days, with word spreading among migrants that Del Rio was a spot where border patrol might not block their crossing. Aerial footage from Fox News showed an unbroken stream of migrants crossing first the bridge, then the river itself, for hours on end. Around 15,000 people, mostly Haitians, have now set up camp in the shadow of the bridge on the Texas side of the river—a bizarre situation in which many frequently cross back over the border to buy food, water, and other supplies in Mexico before returning to the camp.

Both Texas state troopers and National Guardsmen were dispatched to the site late last week, stemming the flow of new migrants to the site. On Saturday, the Biden administration announced it would immediately begin repatriating Haitian nationals from the camp. It was a significant policy change, as the administration had suspended Title 42—the emergency public health authority under which most migrants have been prevented from seeking asylum in the U.S. since the dawn of the pandemic—for Haitians in the wake of several destabilizing events in the country, including a major earthquake last month and a presidential assassination the month before that.

The U.S. made its first expulsion flights into Port-au-Prince Sunday, with daily flights expected to begin as soon as tomorrow. The Department of Homeland Security said it would “secure additional transportation to accelerate the pace and increase the capacity of removal flights to Haiti and other destinations in the hemisphere within the next 72 hours.”

On Monday, images of altercations between migrants from the camp who had recrossed into Mexico for supplies and U.S. federal officers trying to block their return into the U.S. through the river went viral, with some users on social media and even some news outlets accusing Border Patrol of “rounding up Haitian refugees with whips.” The claims were misleading —what people saw were the reins of law enforcement horses—but what was most striking about the footage was how little effect the officers had. After several abortive attempts to intimidate the crossers into going back themselves, they retreated and allowed the migrants to return to the camp.

For Republicans and immigration hawks, the culprit for the latest wave of immigration is obvious: Joe Biden’s more permissive policies have made attempting to seek asylum in America an attractive option for Central and South Americans seeking a better life.

“The promises Biden has made on immigration are going to lead to problems like this at the border,” Mark Krikorian of the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies told The Dispatch earlier this year. “I don’t know if there’s any way they can avoid it. They have backed themselves into a kind of corner.”

The irony is that, to hear progressives tell it, Biden actually hasn’t backed very far away from Donald Trump’s border policies at all. Indeed, eight months into Biden’s presidency, Title 42 remains largely in place, albeit with explicit carveouts for unaccompanied children and an increasing de facto exception for families. (After a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal judge last week blocked the government from expelling families under the policy altogether, an order which will go into effect at the end of the month.)

Rhetorically, of course, Biden and his predecessor could hardly be farther apart on the issue of immigration. But one thing that’s often forgotten is how much trouble even Trump had lowering the numbers of migrants seeking asylum in America. Rising numbers of border crossings in early 2018 led the administration to the desperation play of so-called “zero tolerance,” a policy that became better known by its most concrete result: “family separation.” That policy, which parted thousands of children from their parents with no mechanisms in place to reunite them later, was so unpopular the administration backed off it in a matter of months. 2019 accordingly saw record-high crossings again before the COVID pandemic and Trump’s corresponding Title 42 order brought immigration to a near-total standstill last year.

But simply saying that the new wave is the continuation of a years-long trend misses at least one crucial factor: the economic effects of COVID-19 around the world. Many of the Haitians currently seeking asylum in Del Rio haven’t traveled here directly from Haiti, but from other South American countries where they’ve lived for years.

“We are dealing with this really new type of migration which are these Haitians coming from mainly Brazil and Chile,” Roberto Velasco, chief officer for North America at Mexico’s foreign ministry, told the New York Times. “They are mainly looking for jobs; they come from third countries, so repatriation is difficult.”

People have been leaving Haiti seeking a better life elsewhere for years. But a decade ago, many South American countries, eager for an influx of cheap labor, welcomed them with open arms. The pandemic destroyed many of those jobs, leaving people near the bottom of the economic ladder—like recent Haitian immigrants—with few options. And the U.S., a country that for months now has seen a labor shortage of its own, has seemed an ideal landing place.

“The Haitians who are coming up from South America, they lost all their jobs and they have no country to go back to,” David Bier, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, told The Dispatch. “I mean, Haiti has been destroyed. So we’ve got push factors in South America and we’ve got push factors in Haiti, and they’re coming together to produce an unusual situation at the border with so many people coming who are from that country. They just don’t have anywhere else to go.”

The Del Rio situation notwithstanding, Haitians remain a small fraction of apprehensions at the southern border; immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala continue to make up the bulk of crossings. But the plight of the Haitian immigrants is illustrative of the broader policy challenge facing any presidential administration right now: However you’re going to handle these asylum seekers, you’d better have the policy and personnel in place to handle them at unprecedented scale.

“You’d have to have been a total fool to think that there wouldn’t be a huge migration event at the border [in 2021], regardless of who was president,” Bier said. “And frankly, I think the Biden administration were fools, because they didn’t expect this situation, based on their attitude and their actions. … I think it’s pretty obvious that they were caught off guard by it.”

Worth Your Time

  • For Americans distraught by the challenges of today’s political landscape, George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin has a remedy: Vote with your feet. In an essay for National Affairs, he outlines the many benefits of choosing localities and participating in institutions that fit your political and cultural preferences—ideas elaborated on in greater detail in his book, Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom. “Expanding opportunities for foot voting is not the only factor that must be considered in determining the size, scope, and concentration of government power. But it is a crucial objective that is all too often ignored in debates about the role of government in our society,” Somin writes. “By empowering more people to vote with their feet, we can expand political freedom, increase opportunities for the underprivileged, and help alleviate political polarization. That’s not a bad start to building America back better—and making it great again. Indeed, foot voting was a major part of what made America great in the first place.”

  • There are of course a large number of ongoing threats to public health—COVID-19 chief among them—but, as Conor Friedersdorf notes in The Atlantic, there are downsides to declaring everything an emergency. “Elected officials, health experts, and issue advocates disagree all the time about what even constitutes a public-health emergency or crisis,” he writes. “Is ‘COVID-19 misinformation’ an example? A narrow majority of the San Diego Board of Supervisors says so. Is pornography? Sixteen state legislatures say so. Is climate change? Abortion? Laws limiting access to abortion? The list hardly ends there. Ongoing campaigns treat vaping, racism, opioid use, campus sexual assault, youth suicide, air pollution, alcohol abuse, and more as public-health emergencies. … To declare an emergency often or with no limiting principle or criteria for returning to normal invites abuse, and can make conflict hard to resolve, because what constitutes legitimacy is disputed.”

  • While it looks like Justin Trudeau will hang onto power after Canada’s parliamentary election yesterday, the closeness of the race exemplifies a trend emerging elsewhere around the world: the success of conservative movements occupying the “sweet spot” of the economic center-left and cultural center-right. Henry Olsen breaks down the Canadian Conservative party’s rebranding under its current leader, Erin O’Toole, in a recent column for the Washington Post. “[Canada’s] new Conservative platform shows [O’Toole] chose to change traditional Tory economic policies to go after blue-collar vote conservatives, as former president Donald Trump and Britain’s Boris Johnson have done so successfully,” Olsen writes. “Gone are the reliance on markets and targeted tax cuts that powered former prime minister Stephen Harper’s three election wins. In are promises to expand government payments such as unemployment insurance and disability payments that go disproportionally to the working class. O’Toole’s new outlook goes even further than that. He has decried the fall in private-sector union membership and pledged to give workers representation on corporate boards if elected. He has also said he will spend $60 billion more on health, something designed to show that this isn’t your father’s Conservative Party.”

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Toeing the Company Line

  • On Monday’s episode of Advisory Opinions, Sarah and David break down the latest in the Durham investigation, dig into a Second Amendment amici brief, investigate a defamation case, and more. Stick around to hear Sarah explain how to get away with interstate mail fraud!

  • On the site today, Melissa Langsam Braunstein digs into the data around recent antisemitic attacks in New York City, and Arthur Herman offers a historical retrospective on the Berlin Airlift.

Let Us Know

In his National Affairs essay, Ilya Somin argues that decentralization of power away from the federal government—coupled with increased opportunities for “foot-voting”—would decrease polarization by allowing more Americans to live under their preferred policies regardless of which party controls the White House or Congress. “Red and blue America may not be able to spend some time apart, but they don’t have to do so many things together,” he writes.

We are already more or less geographically sorted along partisan lines, but do you think the country would be better off if we prioritized mere coexistence with our political opponents over compromise?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@lawsonreports), Audrey Fahlberg (@AudreyFahlberg), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).