The crisis at the southern border is likely to get worse because of the Biden administration’s mishandling, or abandonment, of enforcement tools to stop illegal immigration.

Last week, The Daily Signal was on the ground in South Texas interviewing border security experts.

One is Mike Salinas, a 34-year veteran of the Border Patrol who retired in 2021. Salinas talks about the escalating border crisis in Texas, how the situation is worse under Joe Biden than Barack Obama, and how social media companies help cartels recruit smugglers of drugs and people.

Also joining today’s episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” is Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports enforcement of immigration laws and opposes amnesty. Krikorian’s organization organized the border tour, in which The Daily Signal participated.

Krikorian, author of the books “The New Case against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal” and “How Obama is Transforming America Through Immigration,” talks about how Biden and his homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, have failed to address the border crisis. 

Also on today’s show, we cover these stories:

  • Can a Christian flag be flown outside Boston City Hall? Yes, the Supreme Court rules unanimously.
  • Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has plans for Biden’s new disinformation board.
  • Amazon announces that it will reimburse employees up to $4,000 in travel costs for medical treatments, including abortions. 

Listen to the podcast below, or read the lightly edited transcript:

Fred Lucas: Mark, this has been the 10th border tour that the Center for Immigration Studies has done. At this tour, we’ve talked to a lot of property owners and gotten some real front-line stories about the effect of illegal immigration in this country. Could you talk a little bit about what you’ve experienced and the big takeaways?

Mark Krikorian: The property owners we’ve heard from on this tour who live right on the border really have a similar perspective to the property owners we’ve spoken to on the border in other parts of the country.

Arizona, for instance, because they don’t want strangers traipsing over their property, I mean, is kind of what it amounts to. There’s a whole bunch of reasons for that. Some of them are potentially fearful.

We spoke with an older woman who lives alone, literally right on the border, and that’s potentially kind of a scary situation, even if you weren’t 100 yards from Mexico. So when you add the immigration angle to it, it makes sense that this would be something that people would really worry about and rightly worry about.

It’s not so much that “all the illegal aliens are coming to rape your daughters” kind of nonsense. It’s just that there are bad guys who come across the border smuggling dope. There are illegal aliens who don’t want to turn themselves in. There’s all kinds of bad folks and people living on the border don’t want to be overwhelmed by that.

One of the other people we met with was a farmer, seventh generation, down here. His family has a Spanish land grant so they go way back sort of Mayflower descendant kind of thing, except the equivalent of it down here. He’s gotten so fed up with this that he actually has come out of the closet as a Republican, which down here is kind of a big deal.

So I’ve seen this in all kinds of places along the border in New Mexico and Arizona and California. People who live on the border want order. They don’t even necessarily all agree on immigration policy, but they all agree they want control. They want the border enforced and they want people breaking the rules to be punished.

Lucas: How much do you think attitudes have evolved on this issue in just recent years?

Krikorian: I think that actually attitudes have hardened a lot because it used to be, and this is a while ago, immigration was just seen as a parochial issue for people in parts of Texas and California to worry about. But now it’s clear, every state is a border state, every town is a border town.

And even along the border attitudes have hardened because the illegal immigrant flow in the old days, No. 1, wasn’t as big. No. 2, was all Mexican men coming to work on farms. This is a long time ago. Because it was smaller and it was more familiar, it really wasn’t seen as a threatening thing. That’s not the case anymore.

Now the sense of disorder, it’s not even crime because one of the landowners we spoke with—that long-time resident, seventh-generation person down here in the valley—he said no one’s ever put a gun to his head. He’s never been physically threatened, although, he has had at least one run-in with some cartel folks, but that’s not the issue. It’s not so much crime, it’s disorder. And that has really hardened attitudes.

That’s one of the reasons down in South Texas, more and more people in an area where there literally were no Republicans before are now becoming Republican. McAllen, Texas, the big city down here, has elected a Republican mayor for the first time. Almost certainly one of the Democrat congressional seats will be won by a Hispanic woman Republican in November.

Lucas: Yeah. One of the big points that people made, … as you just talked about, alluded to here, is the nature of the illegal border crossings has changed. It’s almost entirely cartel-driven now and trafficker-driven now.

Krikorian: That’s true. Now, it’s not that the illegals are all drug dealers. It’s that the drug cartels control the Mexican side of the border. They have different turf wars over who controls what, but the Mexican side is all entirely controlled. I don’t mean controlled as in they fill the potholes, but they have a veto over who comes across the border into the U.S. illegally.

So the smuggling gangs, which are separate, have to pay a toll to these cartels and the cartels use this. Not only do they make money off of this smuggling, they get their cut basically of the smuggling fees, which is almost free money for them and it’s very low risk.

But also, the enormous flow of people basically invited by [President] Joe Biden to turn themselves in and make phony-baloney asylum claims as a way of being let go, that’s an enormous flow.

Those people come in groups of 50, 100, and 200 at a time to turn themselves in and essentially strip Border Patrol capacity from everywhere else along the border to deal with them, which means there are whole stretches of the border where nobody is watching. There may be cameras, but nobody can do anything about it.

That’s the real payoff for cartels, is it enables them. It gives them almost free hand to bring stuff and maybe people who don’t want to turn themselves in across the border, because there’s nobody watching.

Lucas: Talk about some of the things happening in Washington right now. What’s your anticipation about what will happen with Title 42?

Krikorian: Title 42 was supposed to be lifted May 23. I was on the record saying it ain’t going to be lifted on May 23. There’s no way. There are too many Democrats pushing back, too many Democrats terrified of the consequences, because the [Department of Homeland Security] itself, Biden’s DHS, was predicting a doubling or more of the flow across the border if they lifted Title 42. But it is going to be lifted at some point. It was temporarily suspended by a federal judge but it’s a public health measure ostensibly.

So unless Congress intervenes and passes a law saying they can keep it in place and the president signs it, it just seems to me it’s going to have to be lifted at some point because the president is also getting enormous pressure from this hard left.

When they do that, it’s going to be bad news on the border and it’s going to be worse news for the Democratic Party because the more they keep delaying it, the closer and closer it gets to the election.

I don’t see how they can just keep kicking the can down the road until November. Maybe they can, I don’t know. I’ve been wrong before, but this is potentially an extinction-level event for the high immigration, open borders Democrats and frankly, there’s Republicans like that, too.

So, in a sense, in a kind of Leninist “worse is better” sense, it might be good for them to lift Title 42, say, in August so that the consequences can be fully clear by the time people have to make a decision about who should run Congress next year.

Lucas: There was a letter from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that called on Biden to expand [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and take some other executive measures—

Krikorian: And get rid of Title 42.

Lucas: … Right, yeah. I mean, would you anticipate Biden actually going there or do you think it would be such a clear potential political problem for him?

Krikorian: It’s a good question because there are two factions in the administration on this immigration issue. They both believe the same thing. In other words, everybody in the administration wants basically amnesty for all the illegals and unlimited immigration in the future and all that stuff. It’s not really at all a policy dispute, it’s a political dispute.

The people like Ron Klain and Susan Rice, who are at least a little bit more in touch with reality—and that’s sort of an improbable way to describe the chief of staff, frankly, Ron Klain. Anyway, anybody who sort of compulsively retweets Jen Rubin can’t be that in touch with reality. But anyway, the point is they’re more cautious politically, but then everybody who’s in charge of immigration policy are radicals. They’re anti-borders radicals.

So the question is, which faction in the White House, the more cautious or the less cautious, will prevail? I don’t know that we can say and that’s part of the reason that it’s unclear, is that there’s no one in charge. The president’s not in charge of his administration.

Now, I’m not trying to say he’s senile and Alzheimer’s and all that, but I mean, he’s clearly lost cognitive capacity. But it’s also clear, as part of that, that he’s not really in charge. He’s not in a position to say to one faction or the other, “OK, I’ve heard you both out. This is what we’re going to do. Make sure you do it. And if you don’t like it, please, there’s the door.”

In other words, decisive executive action is simply not in the cards for this administration as long as Biden is at the top because he’s not in a position to make a decision and make it stick.

Lucas: [Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas had a rough time on Capitol Hill recently.

Krikorian: Deservedly.

Lucas: There has been talk among advocates, members of Congress, of pushing impeachment against the secretary. Do you think that would be prudent as impeachment’s something that’s usually reserved for corruption rather than lack of effectiveness? What’s your thinking on it?

Krikorian: I think it’s pretty much guaranteed Mayorkas is going to be impeached by the House next year. Now, whether he’d be removed by the Senate, because it’s the same process as any other impeachment, that’s unclear. It’ll depend on the outcome of the elections and a lot of other things, but I think there’s almost no doubt that the Judiciary Committee will vote in articles of impeachment.

I think it’s pretty sure that the full House will in fact pass articles of impeachment and he deserves it. Because it’s not a question of just corruption. It’s not like he’s on the take. I don’t think he’s money corrupt in any way. The problem is, though, that he is policy corrupt, in a sense. In other words, he took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the laws of the United States, and that ain’t what he’s doing.

There’s all kinds of hot heads among Republicans who will say, “Well, we got to impeach Biden and all this.” Impeachment is a political process. It’d be a political error, I think, to go after Biden and even impeach him. Then Kamala Harris is president? I mean, that’s even worse.

But Mayorkas is an appropriate target for impeachment because even though the administration has a policy and he’s following it, it’s precisely because the president is so weak and unable to exercise authority—and there are differing currents of opinion in the administration, Mayorkas could be a lot tougher than he is. He could be actually following the law in a way that he’s not doing. …

I used to think that if it wasn’t Mayorkas, anybody who’s there would be doing exactly the same thing. And maybe that’s true, but I don’t think so. I think Mayorkas, he actually has an influence over, at least at the margins, over the way they’re doing things and he’s choosing poorly in every instance and he definitely should be removed from office.

Lucas: This week the Republican attorney general, state attorneys general filed suit against the department regarding a decision to move decisions away from immigration judges to the U.S. [Citizenship and Immigration Services] federal agency. What’s your thinking on that?

Krikorian: Yeah. This was a regulation that was issued and is clearly illegal. What they’re trying to do is push the decision-making for asylum cases down from immigration judges to bureaucrats at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

They would change the way asylum is done or the decisions are made so that rather than in a court where the government could say, “No, your honor,” to the immigration judge, “the claims of this person are false,” or whatever it is, the way they want to do it is a bureaucrat—many of whom are former social workers in the asylum core, in fact, the head of it is a former social worker, literally. I’m not even using that as kind of an epithet.

It wouldn’t even be an adversarial arrangement. It would just be an interview with this illegal immigrant claiming asylum, some story he’d been coached to tell by his smugglers or by his American immigration activists who, quite frankly, I would not be surprised if they worked with the smugglers. A conversation between that person and someone who wants to say yes and give this person asylum.

So the point of this new regulation basically is to rubber-stamp asylum applications and radically increase the percentage who get in because a minority, a relatively small minority of asylum applicants actually succeed because there’s a pretty high bar. You have to prove persecution and what have you.

The problem is that under the statute, these bureaucrats at U.S. [Citizenship and Immigration Services], they’re not authorized to give asylum. I mean, literally, it is a violation of law. That’s what the basis of this lawsuit is, I think—I haven’t read the whole complaint.

So it’s important that they file this lawsuit and I hope they prevail. I expect they will at least get a temporary restraining order until the case kind of works its way and they do have hearings on the merits and what have you.

Lucas: OK. All right. Well, thanks for joining us for this and I really appreciate it.

Krikorian: Anytime. Happy to talk to Heritage.

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