Roads, Taxes and Rationality

There’s no shortage of news being made and problems to be addressed, but the world seems a bit quite these days. Maybe the president has something to do with it:

Biden’s words . . . have been counted along with his on-camera appearances and total one-third of those notched up by the previous president at the equivalent stage (The Guardian).

It clearly helps that there are rational people in charge of the federal government for a change, “rational” in the sense that they’re trying to fix problems instead of ignoring them or making them worse. 

An excellent example is the problem of America’s “crumbling infrastructure”. The two words, “crumbling” and “infrastructure”, have been tied together for decades, like “manicured lawns”, “well-heeled lobbyists”, “potent symbols” and “hot topics”. Everybody agrees the country’s roads, bridges, dams, school buildings, electrical grid, etc. need work and it will cost a lot of money to modernize them. I just typed in “infrastructure” and got:

The cost to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure? Nearly $2.6 trillion, engineers say (CNN).

So it isn’t a surprise that Biden is announcing a big infrastructure plan tomorrow (unlike his predecessor, the orange guy, who kept promising a tremendous infrastructure plan to go along with his miraculous health insurance plan, neither of which ever materialized.)

Nor is it a surprise that Republicans won’t want to pay for it. From the Washington Post’s “Plum Line” blog:

New details are emerging about the massive infrastructure plan that Democrats will present this week, and it poses a problem for Republicans. This is exactly kind of government spending voters from both parties support — every member of Congress would happily have a new bridge in their district.

But if it passes, it will be another victory for President Biden. So Republicans have to find a way to convince voters it’s a terrible idea, which they’ll attempt through a series of misleading arguments.

Here’s the latest on the package, from The Post:

Biden’s plan will include approximately $650 billion to rebuild the United States’ infrastructure, such as its roads, bridges, highways and ports, the people said. The plan will also include in the range of $400 billion toward care for the elderly and the disabled, $300 billion for housing infrastructure and $300 billion to revive U.S. manufacturing. It will also include hundreds of billions of dollars to bolster the nation’s electric grid, enact nationwide high-speed broadband and revamp the nation’s water systems to ensure clean drinking water, among other major investments, the people said.

Those all seem like worthy goals. So how will Republicans argue against them?

One way will revolve around fearmongering about deficits and tax hikes. Another will seek to cherry-pick from the package to portray it as stuffed with wasteful boondoggles.

On the first, Biden is expected to ask congressional Democrats to roll back parts of his predecessor’s tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and to increase taxes on profits that corporations shelter offshore.

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already balking. “If you want to do an infrastructure bill, let’s do an infrastructure bill,” is McConnell’s latest line. “Let’s don’t turn it into a massive effort to raise taxes on businesses and individuals” [i.e. corporations and rich people].

The Republican game runs as follows. They say they support infrastructure repair in principle (which is true of some). But, they add, they don’t support paying for it either by driving up the deficit or with tax hikes that will kill jobs (as McConnell suggested).

Never mind that Republicans exploded the deficit with the very tax cuts for the rich and corporations that Democrats want to partly reverse, or that Republicans are pretending doing this would raise taxes on workers, or that the claim that tax hikes kill jobs has been perpetually proven wrong. . . .

Meanwhile, you will surely hear the name “Solyndra” bandied about, in reference to what happened the last time a Democratic administration boosted green energy infrastructure (an even bigger component of Biden’s plan).

Republicans are already making the case that last time millions in taxpayer dollars were squandered on green energy jobs that never materialized. They are road-testing a new slogan about what’s coming: “Solyndra Syndrome.”

But that actually points to how Democrats should respond to this attack. Because the truth is very different from what Republicans would have you believe.

Solyndra was indeed a failure: As part of a federal program to support promising companies, the Obama administration gave a $535 million loan to the firm. But their solar panel technology struggled to compete against low-cost panels from China, and the company eventually went bankrupt.

But the whole point of the loan program was to take risks, in the knowledge that some of them wouldn’t work out. And other loans paid off spectacularly well.

You may have heard of another up-and-coming green tech company that got a $465 million loan at around the same time, enabling it to start making passenger cars. It’s called Tesla. It paid back its loan with interest, and today has more than 70,000 employees.

Republicans spent years trying to turn the Solyndra failure into a scandal. What they didn’t mention is that despite the loss the government took on it, the program that funded that loan quickly turned a profit, eventually earning billions.

So that part of the Obama Recovery Act was a success, even though Republicans convinced many people it was a failure. The reality tells the opposite story, and Democrats should say so.

Beyond all that, . . . Democrats have a good way to call the Republicans’ bluff: Renew the push for a boost in funding for the Internal Revenue Service, so it can start hauling in the huge piles of revenue that will likely to go uncollected in coming years — much from the wealthy and corporations.

Tax experts say that due to IRS budget cuts and resulting lax enforcement, as much as $7.5 trillion in revenue could go uncollected over the next decade, a good deal of it from wealthy actors who are well resourced to evade payments. They also say netting even a fraction of that could bring in gobs of new revenue.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman of the Finance Committee, says Democrats should renew this push, tied to the debate over infrastructure, by arguing for more funding for IRS enforcement, and for reforms improving its efficacy:

The absolute bare minimum Republicans should get behind is ensuring the IRS has resources and trained staff to collect taxes that are currently owed. They won’t have any credibility if their position is that not only can there be no new revenue, but we also can’t do significantly more to collect revenue that’s owed.

Unquote.

Republicans won’t have any credibility? That’s never bothered them before.

They’ve Got a Great Name for Voter Suppression and One Party Rule

From Fox News last month:

The Republican National Committee is launching a new panel on election integrity that it says is dedicated to restoring transparency and confidence to future elections.

The RNC announced their new Committee on Election Integrity on Wednesday, sharing the news first with Fox News.

Because everybody is in favor of election integrity.

From Greg Sargent of The Washington Post:

The New York Times has a remarkable new report that exposes the breadth of Republican voter suppression efforts. Party leaders and their conservative allies are seeking to coordinate the passage of bills — in multiple states — designed to make it harder to vote, justified by mythic voter fraud.

For instance, the Times reports, those efforts played a role in a radical package of bills moving forward in Georgia, which includes ending vote-by-mail for most voters and limiting Sunday voting drives, which are heavily utilized by African Americans.

Republican leaders and their allies plan to export statutory language restricting voting to other states, and in many of them, extensive such efforts are already underway.

“The widespread coordination underscores the extent to which the dogma of voter fraud is embedded in the Republican Party,” the Times reports, bluntly noting that the Republican “views its path to regaining a foothold in Washington” through “an intense focus on re-engineering the voting system in states where it holds control.”

The focus-grouped phrase justifying all this is “election integrity.” That’s the name of the new group, run by the Republican National Committee, that is developing more such proposals for export to states.

But [the former president] has already told us what standing for “election integrity” really means: making it harder to vote for the express purpose of making it easier for Republicans to win future elections.

[He] made this explicit during his Conservative Political Action Conference speech. He declared that the Republican must be the party of “election integrity” and that this means reversing efforts to make it easier to vote wherever possible and that this is an “urgent” matter facing the Republican. . . .

Importantly, this is not [their leader] projecting his own corrupt motives on to what Republicans are doing. Rather, it’s that Republicans are acting on precisely that very same [rationale]:

[According to the Times:]

To head its election integrity committee, the Republican National Committee tapped Joe Gruters, the Florida Republican Party chairman who in January used a #stopthesteal hashtag and advertised ways for Republicans to attend the Jan. 6 rally that ended with a riot at the Capitol. . . .

Like nearly all of the Republicans involved in the party’s voter integrity efforts, Mr. Gruters declined to characterize Mr. Biden’s victory as legitimate, despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud and multiple state audits reaffirming the results. “There are a lot of people who have a lot of questions about the 2020 race.”

The call for “election integrity” is now inseparable from the claim that the election was stolen from Trump. That’s a lie, but the fact that so many Republican base voters believe it — which Trump and Republican officials [got them to believe] — is itself the stated justification to continue.

But we are not obliged to pretend that these Republican officials actually believe their lies about the election. Once we liberate ourselves of that notion, the plain truth comes into view: The same justification used to incite an effort to violently subvert the 2020 election’s conclusion is now being used to manipulate future elections, by preventing as many Democratic-aligned voters, untold numbers of them African American, from voting as possible. . . .

Unquote.

Choosing a positive phrase to describe a blatant power grab is a great bit of marketing. Journalists will tend to adopt the Republican terminology, just like the authors of the Times article when they refer to the “election integrity committee” and “the party’s voter integrity efforts” in the quote above. We need to keep in mind that, in this case, “election integrity” means stuff like making it a crime in Georgia to give food or water to voters standing in line for hours to vote because there are so few polling places in their neighborhoods.

Politics vs. Reality at the Border

Headline from The Washington Post, March 20, 2021, for an article by three political reporters and one who covers immigration enforcement:

‘No end in sight’: Inside the Biden administration’s failure to contain the border surge

Headline from The Washington Post, March 23, 2021, for an article by three political scientists, one of whom heads the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California in San Diego:

There’s no migrant ‘surge’ at the U.S. southern border. Here’s the data [that] reveals the usual seasonal bump — plus some of the people who waited during the pandemic

From the article by the people who know what they’re talking about:

Last week, at the U.S. border with Mexico, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declared that the recent increase in unaccompanied minors attempting to enter the United States was a “crisis … created by the presidential policies of this new administration.”

We looked at data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to see whether there’s a “crisis” — or even a “surge,” as many news outlets have characterized it. We analyzed monthly CBP data from 2012 to now and found no crisis or surge that can be attributed to Biden administration policies. Rather, the current increase in apprehensions fits a predictable pattern of seasonal changes in undocumented immigration combined with a backlog of demand because of 2020’s coronavirus border closure.

IT’S NOT A SURGE. IT’S THE USUAL SEASONAL INCREASE.

The CBP reports monthly data on how many migrants its agents apprehend at the southern border, including unaccompanied minors. . . .

The CBP has recorded a 28 percent increase in migrants apprehended from January to February 2021, from 78,442 to 100,441. News outlets, pundits and politicians have been calling this a “surge” and a “crisis.”

But the CBP’s numbers reveal that undocumented immigration is seasonal, shifting upward this time of year. During fiscal year 2019, under the [previous] administration, total apprehensions increased 31 percent during the same period, a bigger jump than we’re seeing now. (We’re comparing fiscal year 2021 to 2019 because the pandemic changed the pattern in 2020.) In 2018, the increase is about 25 percent from February to March — somewhat smaller but still pronounced.

But was 2019 an aberration? In the figure below, we combine data from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2020 to show the cumulative total number of apprehensions for each month over these eight years. As you can see, migrants start coming when winter ends and the weather gets a bit warmer. We see a regular increase not just from January to February, but from February to March, March to April, and April to May — and then a sharp drop-off, as migrants stop coming in the hotter summer months when the desert is deadly. That means we should expect decreases from May to June and June to July.

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What we’re seeing, in other words, isn’t a surge or crisis, but a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded. But that will just be the usual seasonal drop.

SO WHY ARE WE SEEING MORE MIGRANTS SO FAR IN 2021?

The CBP has indeed reported apprehending more migrants in February 2021 than in the same month in previous years. But that too doesn’t mean it’s a surge or a crisis. . . .

2020 was the pandemic, when movement dropped dramatically. Countries around the world closed their borders. Here in the United States, the [previous] administration invoked Title 42, a provision from the 1944 Public Health Act, to summarily expel migrants attempting to enter the United States without proper documentation.

In other words, in fiscal year 2021, it appears that migrants are continuing to enter the United States in the same numbers as in fiscal year 2019 — plus the pent-up demand from people who would have come in fiscal year 2020, but for the pandemic. . . .

This suggests that Title 42 expulsions delayed prospective migrants rather than deterred them — and they’re arriving now.

That would be consistent with nearly three decades of research in political science. Much of this research has been done since President Bill Clinton’s administration ran Operation Gatekeeper, which tried to keep out migrants by increasing funding and staff for border enforcement. Scholars consistently find that border security policies do not necessarily deter migration; rather, they delay migrants’ decisions to travel, and change the routes they take.

REASSESSING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION

So have Biden administration policies caused a crisis at the southern border? Evidence suggests not. The [last] administration oversaw a record in apprehensions in fiscal year 2019, before the pandemic shut the border. This year looks like the usual seasonal increase plus migrants who would have come last year, but could not.

Focusing on month-to-month differences in apprehensions is misleading; given seasonal patterns, each month should be considered in relation to the same month in previous years. Knowing those patterns, policymakers may be better able to plan, prepare and to manage the border.

Unquote. Also, political reporters would avoid jumping on bandwagons being driven by politicians with their own agendas.

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer summarizes:

The border situation is neither the first crisis facing the new administration nor close to the biggest — not with a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and the related economic crisis leaving 10 million out of work — but it is the nation’s most visible problem that can be so easily demagogued by Republicans looking to score cheap political points against a popular president, or get lapped up by Beltway journalists eager to go back to the brunch of lazy punditry. Indeed, the Sunday morning talk shows — ABC even flew its panelists to an outdoor location at the border — seemed to openly salivate at a return to the days of swinging at Democrats with a club furnished by the Republican National Committee.

There is overcrowding at the border, partly because Biden’s predecessor left a mess behind him. The new administration is working on the problem, which is what we should expect.

The Senate Moves Slowly. You Can See What They’re Doing.

Now that Democrats hold the White House and the House of Representatives, the locus of legislative action is the Senate. Democrats were able to pass the massive American Rescue Plan because a Senate rule allowed them to do so without Republican support. But so much more could be done without the filibuster rule that usually requires 60 out of 100 senators to vote Yes.

So I’ve been paying some attention to the Senate’s proceedings. The Senate has a leisurely schedule with sessions that start late in the day, long weekends and frequent vacations. I assume senators are doing something away from the Senate chamber, because it’s frequently empty. In fact, the Senate chamber is usually lightly populated even when business is being done (that’s apparently why they don’t allow the whole chamber to be shown on TV).

Like the House, the Senate has a website. You can click on Floor Proceedings to see what they did on previous days and then click on Live Proceedings to see if they’re doing anything at the moment.

This is what the Senate accomplished on Tuesday: they honored an Army chaplain and advanced two of the president’s nominees.

Untitled

On Wednesday, they took action on two nominations again (one was from the previous day), honored the 100th anniversary of the birth of a baseball player, and approved a bill to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to give Covid vaccines to some people not usually eligible for treatment.

On the video feed, you’ll sometimes see the Senate majority leader standing at a podium, reading from a stack of paper, uttering the same words over and over again, in order to get a few things done. The majority leader makes a motion and then the Senate’s president pro tem, who on most days is a random senator from the majority party, has a clerk read something about the motion. The president pro tem then asks for a roll call vote. The majority leader, apparently the only other senator in the room, says “aye”, the president pro tem says it appears the ayes have it, and announces that the motion is agreed to. Then they repeat the same song and dance on another motion. The Senate’s rules aren’t designed for efficiency. 

Of course, sometimes a motion is something important, so the whole Senate has to vote.  The senators come back to the chamber to tell the clerk how they’re voting. This takes quite a while, and unlike the House, the Senate doesn’t show a running total of the Yes and No votes.

In addition, senators sometimes make speeches, either regarding the motion under consideration or something else they want to talk about. You’re not allowed to see if there are any other senators present. Some of these speeches are very good. I happened to catch two excellent ones this week.

Senator Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, made a speech condemning the stupid racist remarks of a Republican senator from Wisconsin, and Senator Warnock, Democrat of Georgia, called on the Senate to pass two bills that would reform our elections and protect voting rights (the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act). Both of these speeches were met with applause, but it was hard to see how many people were clapping or who they were.

I turned on the video when Menendez and Warnock were already talking, so would have missed their opening remarks, except that Vimeo has the official Senate video with the added benefit that you can scroll back to what happened earlier. Once the Senate is done for the day, both Vimeo and the Senate site make the whole day’s proceedings available. 

The Menendez and Warnock speeches are both on YouTube. Senator Menendez started by saying he took no pleasure in coming to the Senate floor to make these particular remarks, which suggested he was going to let loose on his Senate colleague. That’s what he did. Senator Warnock’s speech was his first as a senator. He pointed out that the entire Senate should support improving our democracy and helping people vote, the same way Republicans often did in the past. It’s not clear if there were any Republicans in the room when he spoke.

The Government’s Statement on the Border Issue

This morning, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released this statement about the situation at the southwest border. I tend to think it’s an improvement over the bullshit statements the government issued during the past four years:

There is understandably a great deal of attention currently focused on the southwest border.  I want to share the facts, the work that we in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and across the government are doing, and our plan of action. . . .

Our goal is a safe, legal, and orderly immigration system that is based on our bedrock priorities: to keep our borders secure, address the plight of children as the law requires, and enable families to be together. As noted by the President in his Executive Order, “securing our borders does not require us to ignore the humanity of those who seek to cross them.” We are both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  That is one of our proudest traditions.

The Facts

We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.  We are expelling most single adults and families.  We are not expelling unaccompanied children.  We are securing our border, executing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health authority to safeguard the American public and the migrants themselves, and protecting the children.  We have more work to do.

This is not new. We have experienced migration surges before – in 2019, 2014, and before then as well. Since April 2020, the number of encounters at the southwest border has been steadily increasing. Border Patrol Agents are working around the clock to process the flow at the border . . . To understand the situation, it is important to identify who is arriving at our southwest border and how we are following the law to manage different types of border encounters.

Single Adults

The majority of those apprehended at the southwest border are single adults who are currently being expelled under the CDC’s authority to manage the public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Pursuant to that authority under Title 42 of the United States Code, single adults from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are swiftly expelled to Mexico.  Single adults from other countries are expelled by plane to their countries of origin if Mexico does not accept them.  There are limited exceptions to our use of the CDC’s expulsion authority.  For example, we do not expel individuals with certain acute vulnerabilities. 

The expulsion of single adults does not pose an operational challenge for the Border Patrol because of the speed and minimal processing burden of their expulsion.

Families

Families apprehended at the southwest border are also currently being expelled under the CDC’s Title 42 authority.  Families from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries are expelled to Mexico unless Mexico does not have the capacity to receive the families.  Families from countries other than Mexico or the Northern Triangle are expelled by plane to their countries of origin.  Exceptions can be made when a family member has an acute vulnerability.

Mexico’s limited capacity has strained our resources, including in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas.  When Mexico’s capacity is reached, we process the families and place them in immigration proceedings here in the United States.  We have partnered with community-based organizations to test the family members and quarantine them as needed under COVID-19 protocols.  In some locations, the processing of individuals who are part of a family unit has strained our border resources. . . .

Unaccompanied Children

We are encountering many unaccompanied children at our southwest border every day.  A child who is under the age of 18 and not accompanied by their parent or legal guardian is considered under the law to be an unaccompanied child.  We are encountering six- and seven-year-old children, for example, arriving at our border without an adult.  They are vulnerable children and we have ended the prior administration’s practice of expelling them.

An unaccompanied child is brought to a Border Patrol facility and processed for transfer to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  Customs and Border Protection is a pass-through and is required to transfer the child to HHS within 72 hours of apprehension.  HHS holds the child for testing and quarantine, and shelters the child until the child is placed with a sponsor here in the United States. In more than 80 percent of cases, the child has a family member in the United States. In more than 40 percent of cases, that family member is a parent or legal guardian. . . .

The children then go through immigration proceedings where they are able to present a claim for relief under the law.

The Border Patrol facilities have become crowded with children and the 72-hour timeframe for the transfer of children from the Border Patrol to HHS is not always met.  HHS has not had the capacity to intake the number of unaccompanied children we have been encountering. . . .

Why the Challenge is Especially Difficult Now

Poverty, high levels of violence, and corruption in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries have propelled migration to our southwest border for years.  The adverse conditions have continued to deteriorate.  Two damaging hurricanes that hit Honduras and swept through the region made the living conditions there even worse, causing more children and families to flee. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation more complicated.  There are restrictions and protocols that need to be followed.  The physical distancing protocol, for example, imposes space and other limitations on our facilities and operations.

The prior administration completely dismantled the asylum system.  The system was gutted, facilities were closed, and they cruelly expelled young children into the hands of traffickers.  We have had to rebuild the entire system, including the policies and procedures required to administer the asylum laws that Congress passed long ago. 

The prior administration tore down the lawful pathways that had been developed for children to come to the United States in a safe, efficient, and orderly way.  It tore down, for example, the Central American Minors program that avoided the need for children to take the dangerous journey to our southwest border.

The previous administration also cut foreign aid funding to the Northern Triangle.  No longer did we [assist] efforts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to tackle the root causes of people fleeing their homes.

And, there were no plans to protect our front-line personnel against the COVID-19 pandemic.  There was no appropriate planning for the pandemic at all.

As difficult as the border situation is now, we are addressing it.  We have acted and we have made progress.  We have no illusions about how hard it is, and we know it will take time. . . .

Actions We Have Taken

In less than two months, Customs and Border Protection stood-up an additional facility in Donna, Texas to process unaccompanied children and families.  We deployed additional personnel to provide oversight, care, and transportation assistance for unaccompanied minors pending transfer to HHS custody.

We are standing up additional facilities in Texas and Arizona to shelter unaccompanied children and families.  We are working with Mexico to increase its capacity to receive expelled families.  We partnered with community-based organizations to test and quarantine families that Mexico has not had the capacity to receive.  We have developed a framework for partnering with local mayors and public health officials to pay for 100% of the expense for testing, isolation, and quarantine for migrants.  ICE has also developed additional facilities to provide testing, local transportation, immigration document assistance, orientation, travel coordination in the interior, and mechanisms to support oversight of the migrant families who are not expelled.

Working with Mexico and international organizations, we built a system in which migrants who were forced to remain in Mexico and denied a chance to seek protection under the previous administration can now use a virtual platform – using their phones – to register.  They do not need to take the dangerous journey to the border.  The individuals are tested, processed, and transported to a port of entry safely and out of the hands of traffickers.  We succeeded in processing the individuals who were in the Matamoros camp in Mexico.  This is the roadmap going forward for a system that is safe, orderly, and fair.

To protect our own workforce, we launched Operation Vaccinate Our Workforce (VOW) in late January.   At the beginning of this administration, less than 2 percent of our frontline personnel were vaccinated.  Now more than 25 percent of our frontline personnel have been vaccinated.

We directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist HHS in developing the capacity to meet the surge of unaccompanied children.  FEMA already established one new facility for HHS to shelter 700 children.  They have identified and are currently adding additional facilities.  We are working with HHS to more efficiently identify and screen sponsors for children.  In two days, we recruited more than 560 DHS volunteers to support HHS in our collective efforts to address the needs of the unaccompanied children.

We are restarting and expanding the Central American Minors program.  It creates a lawful pathway for children to come to the United States without having to take the dangerous journey. Under this expansion, children will be processed in their home countries and brought to the United States in a safe and orderly way.

In addition, DHS and HHS terminated a 2018 agreement that had a chilling effect on potential sponsors – typically a parent or close relative – from coming forward to care for an unaccompanied child placed in an HHS shelter. In its place, DHS and HHS signed a new Memorandum of Agreement that promotes the safe and timely transfer of children. . . .

The Path Forward

We are creating joint processing centers so that children can be placed in HHS care immediately after Border Patrol encounters them.  We are also identifying and equipping additional facilities for HHS to shelter unaccompanied children until they are placed with family or sponsors.  These are short-term solutions to address the surge of unaccompanied children.

Longer term, we are working with Mexico and international organizations to expand our new virtual platform so that unaccompanied children can access it without having to take the dangerous journey to our border. . . .

We are developing additional legal and safe pathways for children and others to reach the United States.  While we are building a formal refugee program throughout the region, we are working with Mexico, the Northern Triangle countries, and international organizations to establish processing centers in those countries so that individuals can be screened through them and brought to the United States if they qualify for relief under our humanitarian laws and other authorities. 

For years, the asylum system has been badly in need of reengineering.  In addition to improving the process by which unaccompanied children are placed with family or sponsors, we will be issuing a new regulation shortly and taking other measures to implement the long-needed systemic reforms.  We will shorten from years to months the time it takes to adjudicate an asylum claim while ensuring procedural safeguards and enhancing access to counsel.

President Biden laid out a vision of a “multi-pronged approach toward managing migration throughout North and Central America that reflects the Nation’s highest values.” To that end, we are working with the Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and State in an all-of-government effort to not only address the current situation at our southwest border, but to institute longer-term solutions to irregular migration from countries in our hemisphere that are suffering worsening conditions. . . .

Conclusion

The situation we are currently facing at the southwest border is a difficult one.  We are tackling it.  We are keeping our borders secure, enforcing our laws, and staying true to our values and principles. . . .

I came to this country as an infant, brought by parents who understood the hope and promise of America.  Today, young children are arriving at our border with that same hope.  We can do this.