Ken: “… all those people are seeking asylum. They deserve to be heard. That’s who we are. We’re a nation that says, ‘If you want to flee and your feeling oppression, you should come.’” — Joe Biden, September 2019 Democrat debate.

Genial host Joe said “bring it” and they have. Thousands of migrants from Central and South America showed up at our border — enough to create a crisis by overwhelming the asylum process and detention facilities, creating a bad situation. On March 25, Joe had his first presidential press conference where he was asked about chaos at the border. (A set-up question, I think, and a scripted response.) He replied that it was all the fault of the former WH occupant who dismantled the border facilities making the country unprepared to deal with the flood of migrants.

Of course, warm and welcoming Joe failed to say that President Trump’s border policies had hugely reduced the number of asylum seekers reducing the need for border detention facilities. Biden, most importantly, reversed the Trump immigration policy of keeping asylum seekers in Mexico during the legal asylum process. The question is, can the US afford to take on as residents and assimilate millions of immigrants from poorly governed, impoverished countries with a generous stimulus check and the promise of welfare programs to support all their basic needs for as long as necessary?

Joe: If you review the stats of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the border has been overwhelmed with thousands of migrants showing up at our border since 2016. The flow has never stopped. Is it getting worse? Probably, a word I use because there has not been total transparency. Access to border facilities by newspapers and reporters was limited under Trump. That has been continued by Biden, but only as it relates to what is happening with children and minors.

Veronica Escobar, a U.S. representative from Texas whose district is on the border, said this past week, “Congress must enact immigration reform” and “address what motivates vulnerable people to leave their countries.” Since 2016, there has been no legislation. Nothing along these lines has been done. To make matters worse, as a result of the pandemic, in March 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that administers the immigration system, was shut down, putting immigration issues in limbo.

At that point it was on the brink of collapse anyway due to lack of funding, so your “crisis” and the border “chaos” continued. Having or not having a 6th century, $20 billion wall has had little or no significance with border issues.

Given all this, your comments on Biden who has been in office only 90 days are premature and misplaced. The border is “not open.” Trump’s policy has not changed under Biden, except as to unaccompanied minors. Major immigration laws have been in place, modified from time to time, since 1882. It is a vast, specialized, complex legal area, encompassing applications for visas and citizenship, deportation and removal defenses, filing for political asylum and refugee status, obtaining a resident green card, etc.

Because of the pandemic a Title 42 public health rule also exists that allows customs agents at the border to turn away migrants to protect the spread of the virus. To me what is interesting is that the rule is also used with USA citizens. Several weeks ago, a friend of mine (a former U.S. Airforce combat pilot) decided to take a trip to Mexico. While there, although asymptomatic, he tested positive for COVID. He had to stay in Mexico until he tested negative in order to return home. So, to answer the question you pose, the answer is no. My question to you, is what solution or solutions to the present immigration issues do you suggest?

Ken: I’m guessing that question was “can we afford unrestricted immigration?” Obviously, one’s take on current events reflects one’s sources. This from the WSJ op-ed page:

“The U.S. is again seeing a surge of migrants from Mexico and Central America crossing the border illegally, with apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border projected to hit a 20-year high. The situation is creating a political and policy challenge during President Biden’s first months in office.”

Biden has faced the issue by putting VP Harris in charge. I wonder if she has got the nuke button as well. So, what does Biden do now that the blanket invitation is out there? If Biden really wanted to do something effective, he could start by strictly enforcing all of existing immigration laws, finishing the wall, keeping asylum seekers in Mexico pending processing, and deporting illegals.

In short, start by going back to polices in place last fall by undoing all the applicable executive orders he issued during the afternoon of his inauguration day. And should the president not move to test all comers, US citizens and not, for COVID and bar entry to anyone testing positive?

Joe: I agree that the answer to your last question should be yes. As I noted above, there is a Public Health rule (Title 42) in place. Turning migrants away is being done with all adults. What is not so clear is what is being done with an unaccompanied minors who makes it to the border and test positive. Is he or she being turned away?

This limited discussion we are having regarding immigration and what is happening at the border, particularly with unaccompanied minors, is the tip of an iceberg. Under the surface of the iceberg of immigration in the USA and border problems is the larger mass of facts and data not coming out here and being told. It is a toxic topic that for over a decade Congress has refused to debate and enact immigration reform. So, the ball is now in Biden’s court.

I read today that U.S. diplomats have been sent to Mexico and countries in Central America, to work together on resolving migrants and border issues. Like all presidents, Biden will be judged on results. We will have to wait and see if he solves it.

Dr. Ken Johnston has been an ENT surgeon in Kankakee since 1976. He has been on several community boards and has been involved with clubs and organizations. He has lived in Bourbonnais since 1981. He can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or directly at Ken_Johnston@comcast.net.

Joe Yurgine is a practicing attorney, “Of Counsel” with Corboy & Demetrio, Chicago. He can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or directly at joeyurgine@yahoo.com.