The Trump administration warned the incoming Biden administration that a crisis could erupt if it ended current border security policies, according to notes of a telephone conversation during the presidential transition provided exclusively to The Daily Signal.
The notes from the Nov. 29 phone call show that Chad Wolf, then head of the Department of Homeland Security, told future successor Alejandro Mayorkas about conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border and what he feared could happen if the new administration wasn’t careful.
Mayorkas and other officials in President Joe Biden’s administration, however, continue to maintain that President Donald Trump caused the border situation. They have called it “a challenge,” not a crisis.
Biden himself, in an interview with NBC’s “Today” that aired April 30, said he inherited “one godawful mess at the border.”
It was the result, the president said, of “the failure to have a real transition—cooperation from the last administration, like every other administration has done.”
“The two departments that didn’t give us access to virtually anything were the immigration and the Defense Department,” Biden said in the interview.
In an interview March 21 on CNN, Mayorkas said that “the entire system was dismantled” by the Trump administration after it took over in 2017 from the Obama administration.”
“It is taking time and it is difficult because the entire system was dismantled by the prior administration,” Mayorkas said. “There was a system in place that was torn down by the Trump administration.”
And in a March 15 briefing for reporters, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said “the last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system. And like any other problem, we are going to do everything we can to solve it.”
The notes of the Wolf-Mayorkas call 26 days after the election, which Wolf provided to The Daily Signal, appear to tell a different story.
Wolf, now a visiting fellow in national security at The Heritage Foundation, told Mayorkas that the situation at the border was “much different than prior crises,” according to the notes.
The Heritage Foundation is the parent organization of The Daily Signal, which is its multimedia news outlet.
In describing those seeking to cross into the U.S. from Mexico, Wolf told Mayorkas that “the demographics are changing back to majority single adults, still lots of families, but people are trying to avoid apprehension.”
“More dangerous,” the notes show Wolf telling the man who would succeed him as homeland security secretary. “Plus, add COVID, and we have a much different crisis.”
According to paraphrasing in the notes, Wolf also told Mayorkas, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic:
I’m not confident that ORR [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] will be able to handle what will surely be a surge and with COVID still raging down south, I’m worried about the men and women of CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] and I will not allow the situation to become another crisis.
During the third Democratic presidential debate in September 2019, Biden appeared to invite illegal immigrants to come to the U.S.
“They deserve to be heard. That’s who we are,” Biden said of asylum-seekers in response to a question from Jorge Ramos of Univision. “We’re a nation that says, ‘You want to flee, and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come.'”
The incoming Biden administration was fully aware of the situation at the southern border, Lora Ries, senior research fellow in homeland security at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email.
“We know the Biden transition team was aware of the risk of ending the Remain in Mexico program because Joe Biden discussed it during [the] transition,” Ries said.
Under the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy, asylum-seekers were processed in Mexico—as the first safe country they reach—if they were fleeing danger in a Central American country.
“He backpedaled from his campaign promise of ending the program Day One to doing so within the first six months of his administration because he stated he didn’t want 2 million people at the border,” Ries said of Biden.
“He then bowed to pressure anyway, halting the program on his first day. As a result, CBP has encountered approximately 532,000 illegal aliens in just the four months that Biden has been in office.”
As president-elect, Biden announced Nov. 23 that he would nominate Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security. Wolf, Trump’s acting homeland security secretary since November 2019, spoke with him six days later.
Biden was sworn in as president Jan. 20, about seven weeks after the Wolf-Mayorkas call. The Senate confirmed Mayorkas on Feb. 2 by a vote of 56-43.
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.
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