Today's D Brief: Border troops, ID’d; Mass shootings at record pace; Russia’s incendiary airstrikes; Former SecDef proposes experiment; And a bit more.
We now know which U.S. military units are headed to the Mexico border this week to meet the White House’s demand for 1,500 more troops at America’s southwestern doorstep:
- The Marine Corps’ 2nd Marine Regiment, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.;
- USMC Combat Logistics Battalion 2, also out of Camp Lejeune;
- And the Army’s 93rd Military Police Battalion, out Fort Bliss, Texas.
Reminder: Their tasks are to consist of “detection and monitoring support” as well as “data entry [and] warehousing support” in order to free up Customs and Border Patrol officials for an anticipated rise in interactions with migrants, NORTHCOM said in a statement Friday.
The units are expected to arrive by Wednesday, which is just before the pandemic-related health restrictions known as Title 42 finally expire just before midnight Friday morning. That expiration is expected to bring with it a surge of migration into the U.S. from Latin America and the surrounding region.
About the present surge: It has a precedent—four, in fact. The spike in arrivals that already appears to be taking shape (according to Associated Press reporting Monday from Brownsville, Texas) has happened four times before in just the past two years—each time Title 42 nearly expired and was shortly afterward extended by U.S. officials. Adam Isaacson of the Washington Office on Latin America charted each of those four instances in one annotated graphic you can review on Twitter, here.
Also: It’s not just Latin American migrants, or folks from Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle. Under Title 42 procedures, “More people from far-flung nations in economic distress or political turmoil, such as Venezuela, China, India and Russia, have been braving an arduous journey” to reach the U.S., the New York Times reported this weekend.
At least officially speaking, the newly arriving Marines and soldiers “will not be permitted to support migrant processing and escort duties or other activities that involve direct participation in civilian law enforcement activities,” and they won’t “be responsible for property seized from migrants, or require direct contact with migrants,” according to NORTHCOM. However, immigration reporter Molly O’Toole pointed out last week that that policy has not always been followed as closely as U.S. officials prefer to portray.
Worth noting: Focusing on migration isn’t a strictly national-security “problem.” After all, “Undocumented immigrants [are] far less likely to commit crimes in U.S. than citizens,” as illustrated by a 2020 study from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
But migration at America’s southern border is most certainly a political problem. Look no further than the perennial fixation on “migrant caravans” at conservative outlets like Fox and Newsmax over the past several years; now-fired Fox TV host Tucker Carlson was famous for trumpeting xenophobia and fear-mongering, too, of course—making the racist claim (out in the open here, e.g.) that liberals want to “replace” conservatives with migrants as part of an alleged master plan. However, the real forces at work during Carlson’s professional tenure were much more mundane: bipartisan inaction and legislative paralysis.
Some history: Much of the political controversy around what’s happening stems from the 1980 Refugee Act. That law codified “basic refugee protections into law and enshrin[ed] a global commitment to asylum which emerged from the tragedy of the Holocaust,” according to the American Immigration Council. Since its passage, “hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylees have been granted status” and have gone on to live productive lives free of crime here in the States.
But especially disruptive trends in the early 21st century upended what had been “normal” for past generations. And those disruptions were attributed to “a wide variety of factors, including rising authoritarianism, political assassinations, natural disasters, powerful transnational criminal organizations, climate change, and the global socioeconomic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic,” AIC wrote last week in a policy brief.
And instead of adjusting to changing times, Congress and successive White House administrations have opted for more aggressive enforcement—and deterrence-based policies, which simply have not worked—as we can see today in Texas cities like Brownsville, Laredo, and El Paso, all of which have declared emergencies in the past week or so due to a surge in migrants hoping to enter the U.S.
By now it’s clear that there is no single “solution” to this growing 21st-century problem. But AIC published a list of 13 recommendations sensible lawmakers and citizens can consider in order to craft immigration policies that are more humane and possibly more sustainable than what we’ve witnessed over the past 23 years. Those recommendations include:
- “Expand Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations’ capacity to process asylum seekers at ports of entry in a timely, orderly, and fair manner, and publicize this route.”
- “Surge resources to U.S. Border Patrol to improve humanitarian processing and transportation of migrants, to reduce overcrowding and abuses, and to free up agents to carry out other law enforcement duties.”
- “Establish a Center for Migrant Coordination to coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to support newly arrived migrants and reduce impacts on local communities.”
- “Grow federal support for case management alternatives to detention to help migrants navigate the asylum system.”
- “Revamp asylum processing at USCIS to keep up with both affirmative asylum backlogs and the new border processing rule.”
- “Begin clearing immigration court asylum backlogs through the use of prosecutorial discretion.”
- “Construct noncustodial regional processing centers where federal agencies are co-located with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to carry out processing, coordinate release, and provide effective case management for newly-arrived migrants.”
- “Prepare for and terminate Title 42 once legally permitted, allowing a return to normal immigration law.”
- “Fund a right to counsel in immigration court to ensure a fair process for individuals seeking asylum.”
- “Create a Federal Emergency Management Agency-based Emergency Migration Fund to provide for a flexible and durable response during times of high migration.”
- “Increase legal immigration pathways through congressional overhaul of immigration laws and executive expansion of existing pathways.”
- “Build domestic and international refugee and asylum processing capacity in Latin America with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the international community.”
- “Bring asylum law into the 21st century, lifting harmful anti-immigrant laws passed in the 1990s and moving past a post-World War II framework for asylum.” Read over AIC’s report, which elaborates upon each of the above bullet points at length, here.
New: A man carried out another U.S. mass shooting this weekend in Texas, killing eight people at a Dallas-area outlet mall Saturday. The gunman was a 33-year-old Dallas native named Mauricio Garcia, and he was shot dead by a policeman during his apparent rampage. In the hours since, investigators believe they may have found social media accounts of his “that expressed interest in white supremacist and neo-Nazi views,” the Associated Press reported Monday from Allen, Texas.
He was also found wearing a patch on his chest that read “RWDS,” or “Right Wing Death Squad,” which AP reports “is popular among right-wing extremists and white supremacy groups.” Reuters has the latest, here.
Big picture: There have been at least 199 mass shootings across the U.S. so far this year, and there have only been 127 days this calendar year to date. AP reported last week the killings have put the U.S. on a record pace for mass shootings in 2023. And that follows documented rises in hate crimes across the country, with most of those fueled by racial and ethnic bias.
New: Eight people were killed Sunday when a driver slammed his Range Rover into a crowd at a bus stop in the Texas border city of Brownsville at about 8:30 a.m. local time. Most of the victims were reportedly from Venezuela, and “Witnesses detained the driver as he tried to run away and held him until police arrived,” according to AP. That driver was later taken to the hospital, where he was reportedly uncooperative during police questioning.
According to police, “It could be intoxication; it could be an accident; or it could be intentional. In order for us to find out exactly what happened, we have to eliminate the other two,” Brownsville officer Martin Sandoval said. Read more, here.
- “HHS Failed to Screen All Employees Working at Shelters for Migrant Children,” GovExec reported Thursday;
- “Migrant family separated under Trump reunited after four years,” the BBC reported Monday;
- “DHS Announces Upcoming Re-parole Process for Afghan Nationals,” the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday;
- And don’t miss: “Thousands of Afghans escaped the Taliban with the help of private veteran groups. Today, many remain in limbo, held in a compound in the UAE,” as CNN reported Sunday.
From Defense One
Want More Pentagon Innovation? Try This Experiment // Deborah Lee James and Mark Esper: A former Defense Secretary and Air Force Secretary propose more budgetary flexibility and a new approach to program management.
To Keep Hackers Out of US Weapons, the Pentagon Needs to Get In // Egon Rinderer: Constant surveillance of data flows is key to spotting dangerous intrusions.
In Ukraine, A New Chance to Judge the Patriot Missile // Joe Cirincione: The much-lauded air-defense system has a decidedly mixed record. The Pentagon should watch its performance carefully.
Russian officials have scaled back annual World War II celebrations across the country this week, fearing public demonstrations and possible attacks related to its floundering Ukraine invasion, according to the New York Times, reporting Monday.
AP calls it a “major security clampdown” for the Tuesday festivities, which celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. “The fears of a possible Ukrainian attack appeared real, even though parades will go ahead in Russia’s largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the use of drones has been banned in both cities ahead of Victory Day,” AP reports.
Russia, meanwhile, launched 60 Iranian-made kamikaze drones at targets across Ukrainian on Monday, “including 36 at the capital, all of which had been shot down,” Reuters reports from Kyiv. “Debris hit apartments and other buildings, injuring at least five people in the capital.”
Russian forces appear to have used long-burning incendiary munitions on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut recently, the BBC reported over the weekend. If, as some allege, whatever was used in the apparent videos of the incident were in fact white phosphorus, the munition is “a wax-like substance that burns at 800C and ignites on contact with oxygen, creating bright plumes of smoke,” the BBC reports. The stuff is “is extremely sticky and hard to remove, and can re-ignite when bandages are removed.” Use of incendiary munitions in civilian areas is considered a war crime. Read more, here.
A word on the possible duration of Russia’s Ukraine invasion: “Already, the war has stretched for more than 14 months, making a yearslong protracted conflict more likely,” the New York Times reported this weekend in a feature comparing Russia’s likely interest in stoking war versus the patience of Ukraine’s supporters. “Once wars have gone on for more than a year, they tend to last for more than a decade on average, the Center for Strategic and International Studies found in an analysis that used data on conflicts since 1946.”
- “Ukraine Claims It Shot Down Russia’s Most Sophisticated Missile for First Time,” the Times reported separately this weekend; AP has similar coverage, here.
And lastly: We may soon find out which Pentagon official has been selected to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Three outlets have so far reported Air Force chief Gen. Charles Q. Brown will be the one President Joe Biden wants for the job after Army Gen. Mark Milley’s time is up later this year. Read over those three reports from late last week over at Politico, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.