“We are in the midst of the greatest border crisis in U.S. history, by every metric,” says Todd Bensman. “When Title 42 goes away, this will spur 18,000 a day crossing. We’re at about 7,500 a day now.”
Todd Bensman is an award-winning field journalist and a national security fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies. He’s the author of “America’s Covert Border War” and the forthcoming book “Overrun: How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest Border Crisis in U.S. History.”
“A school district in Texas … has been overwhelmed with 50,000 to 75,000 illegal immigrant families that have absolutely swamped the school district,” says Bensman.
We speak about current abuses of U.S. asylum law, Mexican ant operations, the migrant terror threat, and what Bensman calls the “migrant advocacy industrial complex.”
“Mayorkas is telling us all along: We are going to create legal pathways to cross the southern border. That’s unprecedented,” says Bensman.
Todd Bensman, such a pleasure to have you on American thought leaders.
Thank you. I very much appreciate being here.
I’ve just been reading your book, Overrun: How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest Border Crisis in U.S. History, which is forthcoming. It hasn’t been published yet. Wow. I understood from the reporting of Charlotte Cuthbertson, our border reporter and many others, that there is a dire situation at the border, with all sorts of related issues. I had not realized the depth and breadth of it until I read your book, so thank you for this. You approach it from so many different angles. I want to start with this. Why don’t you give us an overall picture of what is happening?
We are in the midst of the greatest border crisis in U.S. history, by every metric. This is a crisis that goes beyond anything in the American experience. Even dating back to Ellis Island, this is something that the generations down the line will remember and study. The book has a lot of numbers in it, but it’s not just a story of numbers. But the numbers are nonpartisan, and those numbers tell us that we are at millions of apprehensions. We are in hundreds of thousands a month.
Whereas in decades past, we are in tens of thousands a month. We were in 400,000 a year territory in the past. We are now in 2.3 million in a single fiscal year, another 1.7 million in the first year of the Biden administration, and 4.4 million apprehensions at the border in a 24-month span. That does not even include the got aways, the number of people that we didn’t catch that are logged in the books at another 1 million at least. And a presumed additional million.
These numbers are just beyond anything that we have ever seen before, and I don’t think that the American public has yet appreciated it, because media coverage has been very episodic and spotty, and frankly, partisan.The purpose of the book is to frame this in not just numbers, but in the human story of what’s happening here. Because these are real people that are coming. This is an impact that will transform America.
One way or another you’re saying in the book, that impact is happening no matter what happens. Even tomorrow.
It’s too late. We are in this now. The book is a marker of up to a certain point, because this is still very much an ongoing crisis as you and I sit here talking about it, and as the book publishes. But we have to understand how it started and how it got to this point in order to change the trajectory of it, if we want to continue as a country.
You mentioned some very large numbers moments ago. But the bottom line in terms of how many illegal immigrants are in the country at this point, within the last let’s say couple of years, what is that number?
It does get a little bit complicated, because there is a Trump era expulsion policy. Title 42 is a pandemic era measure that was put in place by Donald Trump that allowed the Border Patrol to immediately expel all people that they apprehended at the border back into Mexico, where they can turn around and come back again. But there was this constant pushback.
The Biden administration maintained Title 42 and still does even to this day that we’re talking, but has dramatically reduced the number of people that push back. So the four-plus million that have been apprehended were not all let in. The Biden administration let in about 40% of those in the first year, and now they’re letting in about 70% of those.
But there’s still a good 30% that are being pushed back. But the number that have actually been admitted legally is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.7 million. And then you can add to that another million who got away that are in. Not legally, but they’re in. They’re presumed to be in.
The number is pushing toward 3 million that are actually in. Title 42 is under attack in the courts. The Biden administration has tried everything it could to eliminate Title 42 so that 100 per cent of everybody who comes to the border can get in. The intelligence community is estimating as of now that when Title 42 goes away, this will spur an 18,000 per day crossing.
We’re at about 7,500 a day now. 18,000 per day will do something to the country that we’ve never seen before. It will be a tidal wave, an unbelievable tidal wave. And they’re trying to prepare for that, to process that into the country.
When I say that by the end of the Biden administration, depending on what happens with 42, we should have 6 million people actually enter the country and maybe more, depending on how close to accurate the intelligence community is.
Shocking is the only word that comes to my mind.
They’re huge numbers.
They’re huge numbers. And of course, these are all people out looking for a better life. Maybe I can just get you to tell me the trajectory of your career. Because you’ve actually approached this whole issue from a whole bunch of different vantage points over the years. And I think it’s important for people to know.
First of all, I’m a classically trained journalist, a reporter with 23 years in the field for big newspapers like the Dallas Morning News, and 10 years at Hearst and CBS. Both of my undergraduate degrees are in journalism and my master’s degree is in journalism from University of Missouri. And I’ve got 23 years on the ground all over the world doing this, including in Mexico and all along the Texas border.
And after my journalism career, I was recruited to join the Texas Department of Public Safety Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Division here in Texas, where I sort of disappeared, and went anonymous, and was an intelligence practitioner that worked primarily on counter-terrorism issues at the Texas Fusion Center with federal partners.
But I was substantially targeting border issues and illegal immigrants crossing the border who are coming from Middle Eastern countries and places where terrorist activity is pretty prevalent. That was an intelligence project and program that I did for all nine-plus years that I worked for the agency.
More recently in 2018, I was recruited to join the Center for Immigration Studies, which is a think tank out of Washington DC. I took that job, and have kind of come full circle back to reporting, and writing, and communicating above board, overtly about the border.
I come at this from a perspective of a homeland security practitioner. I look at this as a national security threat. I can’t help it. It’s a homeland security issue. But I also come at it from the perspective of a journalist who’s classically trained in balancing information and presenting stories in the most honest, possible way that I can, even though it’s such a partisan issue. That’s kind of where I come at it as a storyteller with journalism background. But also, I’m a law enforcement guy. I’m a little bit blue in the law enforcement arena. I can’t help that. I know too much.
What is the threat of national security threat of 6 million people being in the country?
The major problem with having a border that is this out of control at this level of utter pandemonium is that people arrive at the border often without identification. We have no idea who any of them are. They can tell us, “My name is Mickey Mouse and I’m from X country,” and we let them in without any idea of whether their word is true, and sound, and verifiable. And that’s really the problem. It’s a stranger danger issue from my vantage point.
You have people coming from 150 different countries, from all over Africa where there are war torn tribal militias committing atrocities against the civilian population, or you have people coming from Syria, and Iraq, and from China, and from places that are adversarial to the United States. You have spies, espionage problems, war criminals, and terrorists. And when 900,000 or a million, or a million-and-a-half people cross without even being detected, you can’t even run their fingerprints. That is by definition, a major national security threat to America.
Previously, you wrote a book which focused a bit on immigration, especially from the Middle East and some of the issues associated with that. Very briefly, because I want to focus on this new work, but what did you find?
America’s Covert Border War encompasses almost everything that I know about the terror threat of people crossing the southern border, trying to infiltrate our external guarded perimeter from countries of national security concern, like Syria. There’s 40-plus countries where we know there are terrorist operatives and organizations.
The issue with people coming over the border from those places was addressed after 9/11. The question of it, the threat of it was addressed after 9/11 in the form of counter-terrorism programs that are elaborate and expansive, and are all along our border and beyond all the way to the tip of South America that the American people have never been told about.
The book is an expose of those programs—what we did, what we’re still doing, and what we’re supposed to do, and how those programs so far have protected the American public from an attack from that southern flank.
The book is still relevant in the context of the current crisis. Because now, we know that the greatest number of people on the FBI terror watch list that have crossed the border have been apprehended that we know are already on the watch list. As of the time we’re talking here, it’s probably about 125 who are already on the watch list in a 24 month span.
When I was working in intelligence, this was what I did. I worked on this project. I put everything that I know into the book that would not get me put in prison. This is really the most information about that threat issue that is available out there.
Because remember that the American media establishment denies that it’s a problem, and that it’s even happening. When Donald Trump came out a few years ago and said, “Hey, there are terrorists crossing the border. I know it.” They laughed him out of town, they ridiculed him, and they did fact checks. But now the Biden administration puts it up on their .gov website, how many terrorists cross the border every month. So, they can’t say that anymore.
In the context of the border crisis that we have now, these programs that I write about in America’s Covert Border War are off the rails. They are absolutely degraded and not happening now, and I believe that the country is at a greater elevated threat from that than it has ever been since 9/11.
You dedicated a chapter to talking about how the U.S. asylum system essentially incentivizes lying, and incentivizes people to misrepresent their reality, so that they can get in if they know how to do that. Everything you just told me right now troubles me even more so knowing this.
That’s right. The key to border security in this country is the way our asylum law is written, and used, and abused on a massive scale. It’s set up so that regular economic migrants who just want to work can use this to get past Border Patrol, and to bypass congressional statutes that require their deportation.
There are NGOs, there are non-governmental organizations and American lawyers who are down there all day long teaching them what to say, what not to say, so that they can pass the initial screening that gets them into the country to stay forever. That’s really the problem with the southern border—the U.S. asylum system.
It has to be eliminated completely and rebuilt from scratch in order to prevent these mass migration crises. We’ll never get past this until we utterly reform the U.S. asylum system from top to bottom, and the law behind it.
People who are crossing the border in this crisis understand, and the people that want them to cross understand the vitality, the crucial function that asylum plays in enabling this mass migration. You just have to say, “I want asylum,” and you’re in.
But to eliminate the asylum law together, that seems extreme and cold.
Right. I’m not saying eliminate it permanently. I’m saying put this thing on ice and rebuild it so that it can’t be abused in the way it’s being abused.
I’ll give you an example. One of the highest nationality volumes that come into the country are from Guatemala, from the Central Highlands of Guatemala. The central Highlands of Guatemala is a poor area. It’s an indigenous people’s subsistence, kind of hand to mouth. They have had small farms for generations before them.
But they are crossing and saying that they are suffering political persecution. I went to the Guatemala Highlands to see what was going on there, and what I found were that the people that are crossing the U.S. and claiming government persecution are actually going for the sole purpose of building huge houses in their home villages, so that they could return to these and live in them. People who plan to return to your home village are not asylum seekers. They are asylum fraudsters abusing our system.
And also, people who are genuinely seeking asylum from political persecution, which is what the asylum law is for, don’t reinvest their American earnings back in the terrible town that they’re fleeing and can’t go back to, where their relatives are building the houses for them to return. I was there. I interviewed many people who are building these houses. And they make no pretense that there is any problem in their villages. They’re just poor people.
That is not what the asylum system is built for. The asylum law was put in place for people who are fleeing North Korean gulags, or Jews fleeing a Nazi situation, or you could even argue people that are being imprisoned in China who could manage to find their way here.
The other thing that people forget is that we have a lot of people coming from Africa right now, from war torn places, terrible places. I grant you that. Nobody wants to live in Haiti, nobody wants to live in some of these war torn countries. But if you are crossing 10 other perfectly safe countries first to get here, your argument that you’re coming for asylum is deeply undermined. Because when you are truly drowning, you don’t decide which of the 10 life rafts were thrown at you to grab is the best one. You grab the first one.
That’s not what’s happening. These journeys are planned. They are rational choices that are being made for economic reasons, because the United States is the best place in the world to live. It’s certainly understandable that people would want to improve their economic fortunes, and live in a country that kind of works, has a court system, and has police that actually do protect and serve.
But, our asylum system is not the way to do that. There’s a legal way to do it. And it is a crime to lie to government officials about the persecution that you suffered and that you’re coming here for, to escape certain death.
You mentioned Haiti. And you cover Haiti in the book quite a bit, and especially this program where the Biden administration actually had to send people back to Haiti.
Let me just start by saying that the majority of Haitians, I would say not just the majority, but the super majority of Haitians that have crossed our southern border to claim asylum already had asylum in two countries, Brazil and Chile. Those governments gave Haitians full residency, and full work authorization. And there actually was work. They were making money, and they were secure. They enjoyed those countries. I’ve interviewed many, many dozens, I would say hundreds of Haitians.
When they get to our border, they tell the media and they tell our asylum officers that they’re coming directly from Haiti, when they’ve been living in these other places for years, three, four, five years with asylum already. So the foundation of their claims for coming here are already compromised. It’s a lie.
How are you so sure that all these people have asylum already?
Because they throw their identification on the ground just before they enter, and we can find them. They’re everywhere. You can fill grocery bags with them. These are Chilean residency cards that have Haitian faces on them. They try to destroy them. This one’s burned. These are evidence of asylum fraud.
Because when Haitians get caught with one of these, they’re not going to be admitted into the United States. So, they try to burn them. They throw them in the river. And the ones that get thrown in the river wash up on the ground, or they just throw them on the ground on the Mexican side and anybody can go down there and scoop these up.
That being said, so many started coming into the United States all at once, because they told me the Biden administration made it possible for them to be admitted legally when they showed up. So they pulled up stakes in Chile and Brazil and took advantage of it.
Of course, they’re rational people and they’re making economic decisions based on pure logic. If you know that you’re finally going to get in, they’re going to let you in, you’re going to upgrade. I had one Haitian explain to me in Costa Rica as he was moving through, I said, “How did you compare life in Chile to life in Haiti?” And he says, “It was 1,000 times better.” “So then why would you give up a lifestyle that was 1,000 times better than Haiti to come to the United States?” And he says, “Because the United States is a million times better.”
Now they came in such huge numbers in such a quick time that it caused a political crisis for the Biden administration. They had a political problem with a massive encampment that formed 15,000 Haitians under the Del Rio Texas Bridge in September. And it wasn’t going away. They kept piling in from Mexico through there. I was there for the entire period of that inside the camp, and in Mexico, and interviewing them all around.
I interviewed the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti who was appointed by the Biden administration just two months earlier. And he told me on the record that the Biden administration decided that it had to close that camp, because a year later we would have the American midterms. They couldn’t still have that camp around on the banks looking like that. So, they decided to shut it down.
The primary way that they decided to shut it down was by using a Trump era tactic that has been roundly criticized by liberal progressives. And it’s air deportation, to Haiti of all places. Remember these people were not living in Haiti for years. The worst nightmare for those particular Haitians was to be returned to Haiti.
The problem is that they had to have the government agree to take them in Haiti. And Haiti’s president had just been assassinated. So, there was nobody there. But they were about to have democratic elections the first time in years. And it was scheduled for November 7th. Just a couple months later, everything was set.
The Biden administration decided to scuttle those elections, to scuttle that democracy, and to anoint a dictator, Dr. Ariel Henry. And they installed him because he agreed to take the Haitians from that camp. In order to get rid of a potential political problem for the administration, Haiti ended up with a dictator and the loss of their promised elections. So we deported by ICE Air, thousands of those Haitians back to Haiti. Not to Chile who wouldn’t take them, or Brazil, but to Haiti.
So naturally the camp collapsed under that. Because the Haitians that weren’t being deported, fled. When the first ones hit the tarmac, the cell phone selfies got going. And those Haitians fled by the thousands south back into Mexico to escape even the possibility of ending up back in Haiti. Dr. Ariel Henry is still the de facto leader of Haiti. The ambassador resigned in protest over the scuttling of the elections, and is talking about it to anybody who might ask.
You have a chapter called The New Theologians in the book. This actually brings in a huge area of interest that I have beyond the border. Why The New Theologians?
For one thing, in a book like this, you have to give the big why, the big W. And when I speak to media or audiences, I’m constantly asked, “Why are they doing this?” People really need to understand the why of mass migration of this epic size.
The answer is that that there is an ideology that has been around for 50 years that holds that traditional national borders are an anachronism, that they are obsolete. It’s an ideology. And it’s so profound now, that it’s almost like a religion. This people adhere to this idea that the world should be borderless, that people have an inalienable right to migrate wherever they want, when they want, outside of any regard for what the nations that they’re entering want.
The Democratic mainstream has always rejected this. The Democratic Party has never believed in elimination of immigration law, elimination of deportation, the elimination of detention, or to abolish the ICE. This is a faction, it’s an ideological faction that is an extreme fringe part of the Democratic Party coalition, that has always been sidelined. Their ideas have never been able to gain traction.
But what happened was Donald Trump. He came in and he energized that faction to such an extent that they were empowered. Think Bernie Sanders. Once he was finished with them, he endorsed Joe Biden, and asked his faction to vote for Joe Biden. And when they did, he was obliged to give them authority and power.
When it came time for the presidential primary debates, the things that they were all saying universally were deportation and detention do not abide by current immigration law. It’s inhumane. Let’s put a red welcome carpet out for people crossing the southern border. We’re going to be humane, orderly, and were going to make it legal.
And that is exactly what they did as soon as they entered the White House. They had a problem because of Title 42, but they had been eroding and eroding it as fast as they can to get people access to the asylum system that I keep talking about. That’s their key.
So those people, the liberal progressives, gained control of the immigration and the border portfolio. Those people come from an immigrant advocacy industry, an industrial complex if you will, of non-governmental organizations. Alejandro Mayorkas is from that world. Most of the top advisors at the State Department, at DHS, and in the White House all come from the migrant advocacy industrial complex.
And they have a financial interest in mass migration. They gain government contracts that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. And when they don’t have government contracts, they are fundraising based on this emergency that is created. “We must have funds to help us resettle these people to he