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a crisis of Biden’s own making

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a crisis of Biden’s own making

A crisis is a terrible thing to create. This, nonetheless, is what President Biden has done at the southern border.

His rhetoric during the campaign suggesting an open-handed approach to migrants coming to the US, and his early moves to undo Donald Trump’s border policies, are creating a migrant surge that risks running out of control.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the situation isn’t a crisis, but “a challenge” — an “acute” and “stressful” challenge with some “urgency,” but merely a challenge all the same.

Consider the contours of this challenge. Twice as many people, about 80,000, tried to cross the border illegally in January of this year as compared with January a year ago.

Even though it isn’t peak traveling season yet (that traditionally comes in May and June), the US Border Patrol has already begun releasing migrants into US towns on the border.

Axios reported on a briefing prepared for Biden that warned that the number of migrant kids is on pace to set a record, and there aren’t nearly enough beds to accommodate them.

Biden officials tend to discuss the “push factors,” the conditions that prompt migrants to flee their countries in Central America. But changing those underlying conditions, even if doable, is a long-term proposition. What we have much more direct control over is the “pull factors,” our own policies and practices that create an incentive to come here.

Trump had a number of false starts at the border, but, by the end, had created an entirely reasonable system based on his lawful authorities to impose order at the border. There is no good reason to rip up much of this arrangement, though that’s exactly what Biden has done.

During the pandemic, Trump turned around illegal crossers at the border on public-health grounds. Biden has created an exception for unaccompanied minors, which is an obvious incentive for families to send children under age 18.

Under Trump, the Migration Protection Protocols, also known as Remain in Mexico, ended the practice of letting Central American migrants into the US while their asylum claims were adjudicated.

This was crucial because, under the old arrangement, asylum seekers were allowed in while their claims were considered. Even if the claims were ultimately rejected, as the vast majority of them were, the migrants overwhelmingly ended up staying anyway. This was a huge magnet to migrants — get to the border and claim asylum and you’re in the United States, very likely to stay.

Biden has trashed the Migrant Protection Protocols. No new asylum seekers will be enrolled in the program, and the backlog of people who had been waiting in Mexico are being admitted into the United States.

He’s also suspended the so-called “safe third-country” agreements that Trump forged with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to get asylum-seekers to apply in one of those countries.

The premise of the overall Trump approach was that people who feared for their lives in their home country because of persecution don’t necessarily need to come to the United States to escape. It should be enough for them to go to another country in the region, or if they are indeed applying for US asylum, to stay in Mexico while doing so.

Allowing them into the United States, with no reliable internal enforcement mechanism, constitutes an end-run around our immigration system. Because migrants, like anyone else, respond to incentives, the more who are allowed in, the more will come. And, since our resources aren’t infinite, if enough families show up at the border, it inevitably overtaxes our personnel and facilities.

Even if Biden has different priorities, it makes no sense to create a willy-nilly rush at the border before a supposedly better system is in place (whatever that might be).

Mayorkas blames Trump for having “dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety,” a claim as absurd as the notion that the Biden administration started from scratch on vaccinations.

Trump got a handle on the border, which in 2014 and 2019 had spun out of control. Call it what you will, a crisis or a challenge, but Biden is on a path to heedlessly repeat this experience.

Twitter: @RichLowry

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Opinion

COVID can’t unfairly let pols treat believers like second-class citizens

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COVID can’t unfairly let pols treat believers like second-class citizens

When Christians met in each other’s homes for prayer or Bible study, they had to be careful. Such gatherings were illegal, and the organizers never knew who might inform the authorities.

Although that sounds like a scene from the Soviet Union, it in fact describes the situation in California under COVID-19 regulations that the Supreme Court blocked last Friday. By issuing an injunction against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions, the Supremes reaffirmed that politicians must comply with the Constitution when they decide how to deal with a pandemic.

The main rule at issue in this case limited at-home religious gatherings, whether inside or outside, to people from no more than three households. If two people from different households joined a host for a prayer meeting or Bible study session, for example, no one else was allowed to come.

As the petitioners noted, that limit “does not permit an individual to gather with others in her own backyard to study the Bible, pray or worship with members of more than two other households, all of which are common (and deeply important) practices of millions of contemporary Christians in the United States.” Meanwhile, California was allowing much larger groups to gather in other settings: inside stores, barbershops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, movie studios and (in some counties) restaurants, for example — or outdoors at restaurants, wineries, gyms, movie theaters, zoos, museums, sporting events, concerts, political demonstrations, weddings and funerals.

The upshot was that Californians could “sit for a haircut with 10 other people in a barbershop, eat in a half-full restaurant (with members of 20 different families) or ride with 15 other people on a city bus.” But they were not allowed to “host three people from different households for a Bible study indoors or in their backyards.”

Justice Elena Kagan, who objected to the Supreme Court’s injunction in a dissent joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, argued that the Golden State’s regulations did not implicate the First Amendment to the US Constitution, because they were neutral and generally applicable. The state “has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike,” she noted.

The petitioners argued that Newsom’s rules nevertheless amounted to “a subtle but unmistakable religious gerrymander.” Five justices were inclined to agree, concluding that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their claim that the restrictions on private religious meetings violated the First Amendment.

This isn’t the first time that the high court has called attention to the impact of COVID-19 control measures on religious freedom. It blocked enforcement of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s onerous restrictions on houses of worship in New York last November, vacated a decision upholding Colorado’s limits on religious services in December and reached similar conclusions in four cases involving state and local regulations in California two months later.

By now, the court said, it should be clear that public-health regulations are subject to strict scrutiny “whenever they treat any comparable secular activity more favorably than religious exercise,” and that the relevant consideration is “the risks various activities pose, not the reasons why people gather.” To pass strict scrutiny, a state has to “show that measures less restrictive of the First Amendment activity” — such as face masks, physical distancing and more generous group limits — “could not address its interest in reducing the spread of COVID.”

Kagan is certainly right, based on the court’s pre-pandemic precedents, that disease-control measures can be constitutional even if they incidentally impinge on religious freedom. But Kagan, Breyer and Sotomayor always seem willing to accept politicians’ public-health judgments, even when they are scientifically dubious, change in the midst of litigation or result in policies that privilege politically influential industries or explicitly treat religious gatherings as a disfavored category.

At this point, it isn’t clear that Kagan and her allies on the high court can imagine any disease-control policy that would violate the Free Exercise Clause, provided it was presented as necessary for the protection of public health, as such policies always are.

Twitter: @JacobSullum

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The mindless mask regime might be here to stay, unless YOU resist it

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The mindless mask regime might be here to stay, unless YOU resist it

The masks might be forever. We have to come to terms with the fact that a large chunk of the US population will be wearing masks in public for years, maybe even decades to come.

Even if we unquestionably achieve herd immunity, even if 100 percent of the population is vaccinated, even if COVID cases nationwide drop to zero and even if the coronavirus by some miracle learns to communicate in a human language and tells us, forthrightly, “Well, you beat me,” some Americans, especially those in blue metropolises, will continue to cover their faces — and shame you for not going along.

It’s a massively depressing thought.

For more than a year, public-health authorities have urged us to put up with temporary inconveniences, always with the soothing promise that it will be only a little while longer. But recently, NPR cheerfully reported about the growing number of people who see masks as a source of Permanent and Absolute Safety.

Flu and other respiratory illnesses are down this year owing to our ubiquitous face coverings, our state-run news agency tells us, so maybe we should just keep wearing them. Meanwhile, the rapper Will.i.am and Honeywell have introduced a super-duper smart mask that runs $300. The “Xupermask” allows the wearer to chat on the phone or listen to some dulcet music while signaling her virtue.

None of this should give anyone the slightest bit of confidence that the days of ubiquitous mask wearing will soon be behind us.

Yes, masks reduce the transmission of airborne illnesses. You know what else reduces transmission? Staying in a protective plastic bubble in your living room and never venturing into the dirty, filthy, infectious outdoors. And even if it makes sense to wear a mask in tight indoor quarters, it is utterly unscientific and, yes, moronic to wear them outside, and yet blue-state denizens insist.

Sigh. The mask fanatics — some of whom hold advanced degrees that make them no wiser as human beings — can’t be reasoned with.

The awkward moments with double-masked parents at kids’ birthday parties, the ridiculous restaurant rituals, the seething public glares from masked to maskless on our streets — all will continue. They will say it’s but a small price to pay for Health Most Holy and Sacred Safety. Huge swaths of Americans will literally be lost to our sight and recognition.

It’s a sinister phenomenon that runs radically counter to our cultural history.

Many cultures embrace face covering. Western culture, however, isn’t among them. Western culture revels in the human face and form. That is why “Westernization” is so often associated with immodesty in the East (often unfairly, for celebrating the face needn’t entail baring the backside or plunging décolletage).

A future in which millions hide behind protective masks as they wander around is a steep departure from the Western ideal, rooted in both the Greco-Roman celebration of the human form and the Genesis teaching that God formed man and woman in his image.

The typical conservative reaction — to blame government — doesn’t quite apply here. It’s mainly cultural forces that promote masking in needless places. And private actors have lined up eagerly, with Big Tech actively suppressing science that questions the efficacy of mask-wearing.

Yet we still can resist the phenomenon. We can fight against this faceless future with our own refusals. We can proudly display our lipstick, smile at a passerby and even be understood clearly when we speak. Put simply, we can go back to a normal past, when people’s faces brightened our day instead of terrifying us.

Of course, there is some marginal safety upside to wearing a mask; there always has been. But in the more sensible recent past, most people realized that such small protection wasn’t worth hiding our faces night and day.

We should treat with compassion our fellow citizens who sheepishly embrace the forever-mask regime — but not too much compassion. Those of us who value things like basic human interaction shouldn’t feel shy about mocking those who cling to the facial security blankets or who don high-tech, celebrity-endorsed visage eviscerators. It’s OK to acknowledge that a world without faces isn’t one we want to inhabit.

So let’s bare our faces to the nice, fresh air, pucker and smirk at every available opportunity. Don’t be daunted by the masked masses. Plenty of us want to see your face.

Twitter: @BlueBoxDave

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Opinion

Post-Wright mayhem helps no one — yet cynical pols fan the flames anyway

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Post-Wright mayhem helps no one — yet cynical pols fan the flames anyway

Outrage at the death of Daunte Wright is warranted, but rioting and looting only make everything worse — as do fan-the-flames comments from cynical politicians.

Video footage strongly suggests the shooting was accidental: The Brooklyn Center officer, Kim Potter (who stepped down Tuesday “in the best interest of the community”), thought she was firing her Taser instead of her gun as Wright resisted arrest.

It’s all horrible: Wright was just 20. Yet the mayhem that followed was terrible, too. Within hours, hundreds of “protesters” gathered. Some threw bricks and cans at cops, jumped on their vehicles and even “shot up” a police station, as the chaos spread to Minneapolis and beyond. The ensuing looting rampage all but destroyed several businesses, including a Foot Locker, a T-Mobile and a men’s clothing store.

This isn’t protest, it’s jumping on an excuse to run amok. (Same in Portland, where the folks who’ve been doing rolling riots for months now used the excuse to shoot fireworks and other objects at cops, smash windows and try to set a dumpster on fire.)

This, when local authorities are rushing to do the right thing: conduct a full investigation, figure out what went wrong and take steps to prevent a recurrence. Even if Potter were a racist murderer — and there’s zero sign of that — burning everything down only hurts the community.

Yet politicians holding top jobs couldn’t resist fueling the fire. As news of the shooting broke, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz immediately tweeted about “another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement.” New York’s scandal-swamped Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “We cannot stand by and watch as a flawed system again and again devalues the lives of Black men & women” — essentially egging on the violence.

Most cynical were “Squad” members Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.): Wright’s death “wasn’t an accident” but “government-funded murder,” Tlaib insisted. “From slave patrols to traffic stops,” Pressley said.

Their prescription? “No more policing, incarceration and militarization,” declared Tlaib. Lunacy: Minority communities resent crime as much as any other, if not more so. In a Gallup survey last year, more than 80 percent of blacks and Hispanics nationwide said they want at least as much, or even more, policing in their neighborhoods. So why does the Squad want to deny them the protection they seek — and need?

Because their shtick is to play to radicals (mostly white ones) nationwide. Riots and looting that set back minority neighborhoods are just the necessary price for forwarding . . . their own personal ambitions.

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