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Opinion Pieces

The whole world is watching

Moral high ground is earned – not inherited. For the United States to continue to merit global influence in conversations about human rights or in condemning human rights abuses, it is imperative that we first look to ourselves and our own borders.

For years, politicians have described crossings at our southern border as a “crisis,” to the point where that rhetoric hardly raises alarm bells anymore. But what is happening right now is different. The surge of migrants is higher than it has been in decades, creating a humanitarian and national security crisis, but also a national health security crisis.

CNN reports that we could reach as many as 2 million migrants at the southern border this year. By comparison, there were only 400,651 apprehensions in Fiscal Year 2020, a 53 percent decrease from the previous year. Currently, the recorded peak is at 1,643,679 in 2000. Even Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned that the Biden administration is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”

There’s nothing kind about incentivizing desperate parents to take unimaginable, deadly risks for the chance at a better future for their kids. The Biden policy changes have encouraged human trafficking.

CBP is intended to have a law enforcement role, and now they are serving as overworked social workers and childcare providers. There are more than 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services and 5,000 more in the care of CBP, nearly twice the previous record, according to data obtained by The Washington Post. And no one arrives without the cartels involved.

Perhaps the most tragic part is that this crisis was almost entirely preventable. It is a direct result of the words spoken and policies implemented by the Biden administration.

On Inauguration Day alone, President Biden issued five executive orders addressing immigration and, in order to provide a political contrast to Trump, almost immediately began allowing unaccompanied minors into the country. What we are seeing now is a predictable result of policies and rhetoric that incentivizes families to take desperate and dangerous risks. In fact, career officials at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) warned the incoming administration during the presidential transition of exactly these consequences to a sudden policy reversal.

Now, the administration is scrambling to try to contain this disastrous outcome to what they had originally heralded as a new era of "compassion and sensitivity" on our borders.

However well-intentioned the policies may be, the reality is that the people benefiting from them are not families. It’s not the children. The ones who are winning on all fronts are the smugglers, drug dealers, and cartels. They get paid by every family who crosses, with no incentive to ensure that the people they are smuggling are safe or even alive. At the same time, they are playing a game to overwhelm our system with people so that they can easily transport their deadly drugs, weapons, and other contraband across, while border agents scramble to contain the human crisis.

Last month, I took a trip to the border along with my colleagues from the GOP Doctors Caucus, where I serve as Co-Chairman, as well as national intelligence experts. What I saw was not compassionate. CBP is only supposed to keep people in their custody for 72 hours. They've had some up to 20 days. A facility I visited that can only safely accommodate 250 people while adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 guidelines was holding over 3,500 that day.

I urge President Biden, Vice President Harris, Dr. Fauci, and CDC Director Dr. Walensky to take a trip themselves to see firsthand the human consequences of their policies. Good intentions do not excuse inhumane outcomes.

The United States rightfully condemns human rights abuses around the world, but we only do so with authority when we are living up to our own standards here at home. Now is our moment to do just that. We have a moral obligation to act.

It’s time for the Biden administration to take ownership of the crisis at the border and take immediate action in partnership with foreign nations as well as local, state, and federal actors to address this humanitarian disaster. The world is watching.

This piece originally ran in the  Highland County Press.