HHS Sec. Becerra Softens Immigration Tone

Finally, from the White House comes the first acknowledgment that the border crisis has spiraled out of control.

While President Joe Biden and Vice President/Immigration Czar Kamala Harris remain mum and refuse to check out border conditions firsthand, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has sounded an alarm bell. To the disappointment, if not dismay, of his White House bosses, namely Biden, Harris and Domestic Policy Council Chief Susan Rice, Becerra’s aides have leaked that the HHS secretary would like to see the refugee cap stay at President Trump’s historically low 15,000 annual intake instead of being increased to Biden’s recommended 65,000.

A Becerra aide told Politico that the secretary takes raising the refugee cap seriously, but “wants to take one challenge at a time,” a reference to the mounting border mess, which has in large part fallen into his lap. HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement has the impossible-to-keep-up-with and costly task of providing for an unending flow of unaccompanied minors (UACs) who enter the U.S. without lawful immigration status or an available parent or guardian.

As of May 2, HHS has about 23,300 children under age 18 in its care. As a reference point, in 2020 approximately 72 percent of all children referred were over 14, and 68 percent were boys. Countries of origin for UACs were Guatemala, 46 percent; El Salvador, 14 percent; Honduras, 25 percent; and other countries, 8 percent. HHS spends tens of millions of taxpayer dollars weekly to shelter, feed and locate new housing sites for the unaccompanied aliens. In its report, Politico wrote that last month HHS advised Congress that it will transfer or reprogram emergency supplemental funding, a total of $1.3 billion, toward the ongoing UAC placement effort.

Each day, Becerra’s quest for stability becomes more uphill. In April, 13,962 new UACs entered, straining Customs and Border Patrol resources. All of the UACs will need the full range of care that ORR provides. But missing from the establishment media’s border coverage was a Texas farmer’s discovery of five abandoned UACs under the age of seven, including an infant. Three were Honduran, and two were Guatemalan, all lying in dirt, hungry and crying. Dumped off by traffickers, the girls would have, the farmer believes, died – the final, tragic result of the ruthless actions of callous cartel criminals. Longtime border observers predict that, during the summer months, migrants, motivated by Biden’s open borders policies and smuggled by profiteering traffickers, will perish.

As the UAC influx continues, states are less willing to accommodate the youths, another hurdle Becerra has to overcome. Governors from 20 U.S. states, including Texas’ Greg Abbott and Arizona’s Doug Ducey, signed a letter to Biden urging him to “take action” on the border because it’s “neither closed nor secure,” and added that his plan is “unacceptable and unsustainable.” Rejecting any future effort to house UACs in their states, the governors criticized the HHS request for private facilities to take in the minors. The states, the letter continued, have neither the resources nor the obligation to solve the federal government’s “self-created crisis.” Reckless, inhumane, misguided and disastrous is how the governors described Biden’s incentivizing border rhetoric.

Becerra, most well-known prior to his HHS appointment as the California attorney general who sued the Trump administration 123 times, has softened his tune on immigration. Becerra has been a longtime immigration expansionist dating back to his U.S. House of Representatives tenure. But now that he’s on the hot seat for, first, indisputably being unqualified to fill the HHS secretary’s job and, second, underperforming as secretary, Becerra is looking to minimize his exposure to criticism by subtly pressing for a lower refugee cap.

As California AG, Becerra wasn’t directly accountable for unmanageable immigration increases. But since he became a key part of the Biden administration as HHS secretary, he’s a point man for the out-of-control border failure. Becerra has learned that there’s a world of difference between immigration advocacy from California and coping with immigration reality as HHS secretary.