The United States could face an "invasion" that would make the recent migrant crisis seem relatively tame if President Trump's efforts are reversed, and Democratic policies incentivize illegal border crossings, Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters on Tuesday.
Morgan's comments came just a week before the end of the 2020 presdential race, which has featured repeated criticisms of the Trump administration's enforcement efforts at the border. "If what has been accomplished is undone, we’re not just going to see another immigration crisis, we’re going to see an invasion, and I fully believe that," Morgan said.
The border chief pointed to the administration's decision to end catch-and-release, a highly controversial practice that Trump highlighted at last week's debate while fending off accusations that he failed to reunite child migrants with their parents.
While migrant families have caught headlines, CBP honed its focus Tuesday on the damage dealt by human smugglers and drug traffickers.
Trump's agenda, Morgan argued, closed loopholes that were exploited by smugglers and purportedly drove the migrant crisis. In conjunction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CBP was "forced" to release more than 400,000 immigrants living in the United States illegally for FY 2019, according to Morgan. He claimed that with reforms, authorities released "less than 15,000" immigrants in FY 2020.
Along with ending Trump's attempt to build a wall, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has pledged to end the migrant protection protocols (MPP) that CBP has long touted as integral to their efforts in returning illegal border crossers.
Since the migrant crisis in May of last year, CBP has posted a series of immigration declines that it has attributed to tougher enforcement. The agency previously reported that in February, it saw a 74 percent decrease in apprehensions -- generally an indicator of illegal crossings -- since the peak of the humanitarian and border security crisis in May of 2019.
Morgan argued that lax enforcement combined with incentives -- like drivers' licenses, health care, and jobs -- would create a crisis that would make the former "pale" in comparison. Biden and other Democrats have generally portrayed the administration's agenda as cruel while advancing a path to citizenship for the millions of immigrants currently in the U.S. illegally.
"We know that immigrants and immigrant communities are not a threat to our security, and the government should never use xenophobia or fear tactics to scare voters for political gain," reads the Biden campaign's website. "It’s irresponsible and un-American. Building a wall from sea-to-shining-sea is not a serious policy solution–it’s a waste of money, and it diverts critical resources away from the real threats."
The campaign further accuses Trump of "fundamentally misunderstand[ing] how to keep America safe because he cares more about governing through fear and division than common sense solutions."
Instead, the Biden campaign has argued for increases in foreign aid to address "underlying" causes of irregular migration.
"The worst place to deal with irregular migration is at our own border. Rather than working in a cooperative manner with countries in the region to manage the crisis, Trump’s erratic, enforcement-only approach is making things worse," the campaign's immigration plan reads.
"The best way to solve this challenge is to address the underlying violence, instability, and lack of opportunity that is compelling people to leave their homes in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in the first place."
Morgan, meanwhile, has described the wall as a sensible way to deter illegal activity, and a tool that helped the agency prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Democrats in various parts of the country have backed sanctuary practices and driver's licenses for immigrants in the country illegally, among other policies.
During the primary season, Biden also came under fire for saying he thought immigrants in the country illegally should have access to government health care programs.
“Look I think that anyone who is in a situation where they’re in need of healthcare, regardless of whether they’re documented or undocumented, we have an obligation to see that they’re cared for," he said, when asked about federal benefits and entitlements like Medicaid.