A big piece of the illegal immigration puzzle that tamped down the numbers at the Southern border was President Trump's "Remain in Mexico" program. Critics say it put asylum-seekers at risk and are cheering on the Biden Administration decision to end it. But supporters of "Remain in Mexico," including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, have dire predictions.
Sharyl: How would you characterize what you see coming on the border?
Graham: A "&$#@ show." This is going to be really bad. Illegal immigration is a business. It's a dirty, nasty business. Like drug dealing. You prey on the hopes and dreams of some desperate people, the coyotes and the human traffickers, entices people to pay them money, to get them to the United States, with the hope that they can stay. So that's one aspect of it. The other aspect of illegal immigration is drug dealers and people who sell counterfeit goods into the country will take a group of illegal immigrants and have them surge the border, creating a resource problem so they can get their drugs and our counterfeit goods through the border somewhere else. It's a multi-billion-dollar business. The incentives that Biden is creating is gonna reopen this business big time. It’s going to be worse than it's ever been before, because word is out.
Sharyl: Let's take the viewpoint of some advocates who say, 'There are a lot of deserving people who need help and they should be able to come here and have a chance.'
Sen. Lindsey Graham: This is a disaster in the making. Trump was right about the asylum abuse. Under the old system, if you got one foot in the United States and you claim asylum, we have to process your claim. We release you into the United States. Your hearing is four years in the future. There’s a million and a half people waiting to have their case heard. Nobody shows up. 90% of the people who were processed and released in the United States, never show up for the hearing four years later. So what did Trump do? He said, he said the following to Mexico: 'if you will hold these people in your country until the court date comes, I will help you pay for that.’ Guess what? The Remain in Mexico policy shut down asylum seekers. It went from being full to almost empty. Why? Nobody’s going to pay $20,000 from Guatemala, to wait in Mexico for four years. When the word got out that you can't stay in the United States, that they're going to send you back to Mexico, you’re not released in the United States, the whole program dried up. Now word is out that the Remain in Mexico policy is being changed. So the smugglers and the human traffickers are advertising in Guatemala and El Salvador and Honduras and other places that the old system is back. Guess what? They're taking the people that were staying in Mexico, they're bringing them back into the United States. They're going to release some like they used to do. And you're going to turn on the faucet.
Sharyl: The borders already being flooded, for example in parts of Texas, and some areas, drug trafficking is already up. But do you know the timing of any of this? Because something called title 42, which allowed people to be turned around because of coronavirus without processing, the White House told us that's still in play. But some border officials we spoke to told us it ended a couple of days ago. So there's confusion about timing on all this. Do you know?
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Yeah, it's a perfect storm forming for the summer. So if you get nothing outside of this interview, by the summer, it's going to be a mess. Three things are happening at the same time that are going to be a disaster for controlling the border. Number one, we withdrawn from agreements where the triangle countries..
Sharyl (18:37): Triangle countries are Honduras, Guatemala, the three countries, El Salvador
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Yeah. Where the caravans come from, the caravan countries. We had an agreement with them that you could apply for asylum in your home country. That way we didn't have the problem of dealing with you when you got to the border. We’ve gotten rid of that agreement. We had the Remain in Mexico policy where Mexico would hold these people until their court date, which shut down the flow. We've withdrawn from the triangle agreement. We're going to change the Remain in Mexico policy. On Title 42: We have the ability because of the coronavirus to send people back, because we're worried about the spread of the virus right now. They have the authority, if they want to use it, to turn every asylum seeker away, every unaccompanied minor, send them back to their home country. So, when the COVID virus becomes less severe, the Title 42 restrictions on travel in the United States are lifted, they're going to do that and do away with the Remain in Mexico program at the same time it’s a perfect storm for just a million people rushing the border.
Sharyl (on-camera): It was reported that officials briefed President Biden this past week on the need to find 20,000 beds for an expected flood of illegal immigrants under age 18 coming in groups without a parent. In 2014, about 68,500 minors were welcomed costing roughly a billion U.S tax dollars to care for them, and almost as many in 2016. The White House referred most of our border questions to the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Mayorkas spoke to reporters this week blaming the Trump administration for today’s border problems, indicating the new focus is on a humanitarian approach rather than border security.
Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: We are dedicated to achieving and, quite frankly, are working around the clock to replace the cruelty of the past administration with an orderly, humane, and safe immigration process. It is hard, and it will take time. But rest assured, we are going to get it done.
Sharyl (on-camera): We’ve asked the White House for an on-camera interview with an appropriate official to talk about the developing border story.