In early December 2020, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) assembled two dozen experts to game out the possibility of a renewed humanitarian and national security crisis on the southern border with Mexico. The simulation suggested that a new border crisis will rapidly occur in the early months of a Biden administration based largely on the expectation of a softening of the Trump administration’s approach to border security. Further, it suggested that the crisis will be exacerbated by the Biden team’s inability to quickly analyze the situation and develop and deploy an adequate response. Additional consequences will emerge concurrent with the renewed humanitarian border crisis: a surge in dangerous opioid smuggling and a resultant increase in American overdose deaths, and an increase in infiltration by people with links to terrorist organizations.

Key Points

With a new administration comes new border enforcement policies and changed expectations with expectations likely to be the biggest driver of a new border crisis in the near term.

  • Even before formally announced policy changes, introduced legislation, or public statements, changed expectations primed a new wave of migrants to risk traveling to the border.
  • The Biden administration will be fatally slow to respond to the scale of the crisis as it unfolds.
  • The change in administration and anticipated changes in border enforcement may set off a chain reaction in the balance of power among Mexican and Central American drug cartels, resulting in a wave of violence.
  • The stability of the Northern Triangle nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are likely to be challenged with an escalation of cartel violence and the possible overt takeover by the cartels of one of those nations along with a de facto alliance with the People’s Republic of China.
  • Cartels and their suppliers in China may shift to the production of carfentanyl, an opioid 100 times as potent as fentanyl, resulting in a significant increase in American overdose deaths as well as increased risk to U.S. law enforcement personnel.
  • Most of the Mexican government, with the exception of President López Obrador (AMLO), is deeply compromised by the cartels, especially the Sinaloa Federation, making it difficult for AMLO to consistently enforce his directives.
  • The border crisis may progress along vastly different lines in California and Texas as governors Newsom and Abbott use their inherent authority to take very different approaches.
  • The end of travel restrictions on certain nations will increase the flow of individuals connected with terror groups into the U.S.