When hundreds of thousands of migrants surged to the southern border soon after Joe Biden took office, administration officials urged patience. Donald Trump had “dismantled” the system, homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insisted when asked about chaotic scenes at the border last March. “It takes time to rebuild it virtually from scratch,” he said.

Well, the Biden administration has now had plenty of time — and there is no end to the border crisis in sight. Eighteen months on from Mayorkas’s assurances, the numbers are no less staggering. In June alone, Customs and Border Protection reported...

When hundreds of thousands of migrants surged to the southern border soon after Joe Biden took office, administration officials urged patience. Donald Trump had “dismantled” the system, homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insisted when asked about chaotic scenes at the border last March. “It takes time to rebuild it virtually from scratch,” he said.

Well, the Biden administration has now had plenty of time — and there is no end to the border crisis in sight. Eighteen months on from Mayorkas’s assurances, the numbers are no less staggering. In June alone, Customs and Border Protection reported more than 200,000 apprehensions. So far this year, law enforcement has encountered more than 1.5 million migrants in attempted border crossings. The lethal consequences of this lawlessness were made tragically clear when fifty-three migrants died in a stifling trailer in San Antonio. Last year, at least 650 people lost their lives attempting to cross into the United States.

Yet faced with this crisis, the administration’s approach has been defined by exactly the sort of “dismantling” of which Mayorkas accused Biden’s predecessor. From day one, officials have set their sights on Title 42 — a pandemic-era measure that enables swift deportation on public-health grounds — and the so-called “Remain-in-Mexico” policy, designed by the Trump administration, that required most asylum seekers to stay south of the border while their cases were considered. Biden’s attempt to scrap Title 42 has so far been blocked by the courts. Some moderate Democrats, many of them from border states, oppose his plan, arguing that an end to Title 42 would mean even greater numbers arriving at America’s doorstep. Meanwhile, in early August, the White House announced the end of Remain-in-Mexico, after a Supreme Court ruling cleared the way, inviting asylum seekers into the country to wait for their cases to be heard and incentivizing many more migrants to make the journey to the United States.

The Biden team is determined to tear up the policies of his predecessor — it brought an abrupt halt to the construction of a border wall, without much of a plan for what to do instead. Biden and Kamala Harris, who was deputized to focus on the border, show no appetite for tackling the issue in a serious way. Harris was supposed to be busy brokering deals with the northern triangle countries — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. She has hardly visited them.

Immigration may be a fraught issue, but the cause of the current crisis is no great mystery: on the campaign trail, Biden promised to “decriminalize” border crossings — and the world listened. In office, he has overseen a radical slowdown in deportations: ICE removals were down 70 percent in 2021.

Who wins under the chaotic status quo? Not the American people, who are grappling with the dangerous consequences of an uncontrolled border. Drug overdose deaths last year topped 100,000 for the first time, fueled in part by fentanyl smuggled across the border. In one south Texas county, fentanyl seizures increased elevenfold year-on-year. And in the first half of 2022, fifty-six migrants apprehended at the southern border were flagged by the terrorism watchlist, a four-fold increase on the previous year. More generally, millions of illegal migrants cannot simply be absorbed into American society without there being destabilizing social, political and economic consequences.

And Biden’s border policies are nowhere near as compassionate to the migrants themselves as his administration seems to think. For all the “kids in cages” admonitions, by encouraging dangerous crossings, the Biden approach has resulted in far more unaccompanied children in custody today than there were under the previous administration.

Other losers under the current system include anyone holding out hope for a comprehensive deal on immigration in Washington. Few on the left are willing to acknowledge it, but no sustainable solution to the many immigration headaches the country faces will be politically viable while the border remains so porous. The only real winners now are the coyotes cashing in on a human-trafficking boom. Everyone else suffers — in large part thanks to Biden’s lax approach and refusal to admit the existence of a border crisis, let alone confront its causes.

Two impulses guide Biden border policy: an insistence that everything from the Trump era must be swept aside and a confounding need for the approval of affluent liberals and progressive Democratic operatives. The result is an abdication of duty that offers a feel-good factor solely to those safely insulated from the ripple effects of border chaos. No regard is paid to those on the ground.

This is cruelty masquerading as compassion — understandably, American patience is running out.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s September 2022 World edition.