Saunders: U.S. policy luring people to risky border crossing

Providing amnesty to those who have previously crossed illegally will only lead to more deaths.

By Debra J. Saunders / syndicated columnist

After a tractor-trailer packed with more than 60 migrants was found abandoned in San Antonio, Texas, reporters pressed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for a reaction. As of this writing, 53 have been declared dead.

En route to Madrid with President Joe Biden, Jean-Pierre rightly called the awful story “absolutely horrific and heartbreaking.” She then added, “The border is closed, which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks.”

On the other side of the political aisle, Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, blamed Biden’s “open border policies” for the awful toll.

These two radically different views on the border represent the national divide, but no one should overlook criminal cartels’ ruthless treatment of vulnerable people.

In essence, Jean-Pierre was putting the administration’s situation on President Donald Trump’s March 2020 decision to seal the border under Title 42, ostensibly to prevent the spread of covid-19.

After he took office, Biden tried to lift Title 42, but a federal judge issued a ruling that required the administration to enforce the policy.

So even though he may not want to, Biden essentially has been ordered to enforce border law.

I would argue that his very reluctance sends a signal to wannabe Americans that if they cross the border illegally and they’re not caught, they could stay for years.

And if they are caught, they can try again.

According to the American Immigration Council, 56 precent of people encountered by the Border Patrol during Biden’s first year in office were expelled under Title 42.

As a result, the Council found, “Title 42 has increased border crossings in large part by creating a situation where many people expelled back to Mexico make at least one additional attempt to cross the border.”

Apparently illegal entries are an if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed kind of thing.

The American Immigration Council also noted that the majority of families that arrived in the United States in 2021 were able to stay in the country while they seek asylum. That’s another incentive to flout the law.

“They’ve released 1 million illegal aliens into the U.S. since Inauguration Day,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the pro-enforcement Center for Immigration Studies, told me. “And yet there are still some border controls. So it’s not that the border is open; it’s open-ish.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Politico that the trailer deaths could present a “Uvalde moment,” a reference to the bipartisan compromise that passed after the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting.

I don’t think so.

The U.S. Citizenship Act, which Biden sent to Congress, would open the path to citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally on or before of Jan. 1, 2021. The Democratic House and Senate haven’t moved it.

Jan. 1, 2021: that makes it sound like there’s no incentive to come here illegally. But really, its passage would signal to the world that those who didn’t make it by that deadline probably can cross the border illegally and wait out the 2021 they defied.

I appreciate why they want to be Americans, so much so that some would put their lives in peril by making a dangerous crossing.

The best way to prevent more such tragedies is to send the message that in the long run, paying human smugglers won’t pay off.

Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Email her at

Talk to us

More in Opinion

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, violent insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump scale the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Two Seattle police officers who were in Washington, D.C., during the January 6 insurrection were illegally trespassing on Capitol grounds while rioters stormed the building, but lied about their actions, a police watchdog said in a report released Thursday, July 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
Editorial: Electoral Count Act needs bipartisan reforms now

Changes to the 135-year-old law may prevent future attempts to overturn elections.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Aug. 19

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

The COVID-19 ward at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in May 2020. (Andy Bronson / Herald file) 20200519
Editorial: Nurses and hospitals need our care, support now

The pandemic has taken a toll on Providence and its nurses. Changes are needed to restore all.

Melinda Parke sits inside her Days Inn motel room as her son, Elijah, sleeps on his chair behind her Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Purchase of hotel as shelter can be effective tool

The county’s investment of federal aid will serve those who need shelter and supportive services.

Teresa Reynolds sits exhausted as members of her community clean the debris from their flood ravaged homes at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Ky., Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Editorial: How many billion-dollar disasters will it take?

A tally of climate disasters shows an ever-increasing toll of costs and lives. Congress must act.

Schwab: The Count of Mar-a-Lago and his Many Boxes of Secrets

If there were any documents, they were planted; and if they weren’t planted Trump declassified them.

FBI, DOJ leaders motives should be questioned over search

I have totally lost respect for the top dogs in the FBI,… Continue reading

What you can do to save lives and the planet

Recent polls advise us that the two looming and rapidly approaching existential… Continue reading

George Will’s informative, unbiased writing appreciated

Thank you so much to The Herald for including George Will’s editorial… Continue reading

Most Read