Biden can end the border crisis now, with supply chain expertise
Updated 11:45, 17-Apr-2021
Cyrus Hadavi
Migrant families recently released from detention arrive at a bus depot in McAllen, Texas, U.S., May 16, 2019. /VCG

Migrant families recently released from detention arrive at a bus depot in McAllen, Texas, U.S., May 16, 2019. /VCG

Editor's note: Cyrus Hadavi is the CEO and Chairman of Adexa. Previously, he was Adjunct Professor of Operations Management at Columbia University. He has written for Reuters, Newsweek and the London School of Economics. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The migrant crisis at the Southern border isn't going to go away – if anything it will get worse, and is likely to be a regular feature of Joe Biden's presidency. Rather than viewing it as a political question, handling it efficiently and humanely is just a question of logistics, planning and supply chains. 

There is no need for a rich nation like the U.S. to be separating children from families, or placing them in confinement – if the government can plan and act for what is essentially a straightforward logistics issue. 

Traditionally, supply chains are absent from our news cycles and government policies, despite how they affect every aspect of our lives. This has been particularly apparent since toilet paper disappeared off our shelves, vaccine supplies became a matter of national survival, and a ship blocked the Suez Canal, leading to delayed deliveries globally. 

But the real value of supply chains is in how they can create smart policies to deal with crises – particularly when it comes to the movement of goods and people.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested 100,441 migrants on the Southern border in February, which is a 28 percent jump from January, and is the highest figure since June 2019. Whatever one's political view is on what should be done with, at that rate, more than a million people a year, we should agree that they should be processed competently and humanely.

That means using expertise in supply chain management, and investing in the systems that can manage any unforeseen spike in movement or demand.

With any supply chain, if there is a spike in movement from one country to another, the first thing to do is to adapt your forecasting and resources. Migrants at the border should be no different.

None of this should be unpredictable: By using the Internet of Things and predictive analytics we can know exactly where and to what extent those spikes will occur. An entire supply chain or process can then be readjusted automatically, without a human having to intervene. 

Humans are of course less predictable than inanimate goods, but not that much less predictable. 

Migrants seeking asylum hearings wait at the border at the El Chaparral Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, February 19, 2021. /Getty

Migrants seeking asylum hearings wait at the border at the El Chaparral Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, February 19, 2021. /Getty

Monthly data from the CBP shows that the current situation fits with general seasonal trends, where this is generally an uptick in border crossings in the months of January, February and March, when the weather is more favourable and the journey is less treacherous. Similarly, we can expect a drop-off in the hotter months, when the desert becomes too inhospitable to trek across. Of course, when these figures drop, Biden's team of policy-makers will take the credit. 

A simple factor like weather temperature should be measured and planned for in our border capacity. But there are larger environmental, economic and social and political forces at play. These too should be recorded, analyzed and planned for. 

Droughts, natural disasters, currency fluctuations, water shortages and violent crime all lead to increased border crossings. Biden knows this, as he served in the former Barack Obama administration in 2014-15 when a confluence of natural disaster and violent crime led to a spike in crossings at the border. 

AI-enabled planning can and should process information from source countries on crime rates, weather fluctuation, currency fluctuation and food or water shortage, as well as political instability. 

Such predictions could then be used to inform humanitarian assistance and policing levels. If, for example, we see that Mexico or Guatemala has suffered a water shortage crisis and a spike in violent crime, then we could comfortably predict a spike in border crossings, and the adequate provisions could be made. 

This is important, because the human suffering – and the political crisis – at the border does not necessarily come from the number of people crossing, it comes from unexpected peaks. 

Those unexpected peaks lead to overcrowded child detention centers, which the left are shocked by, and a spike in asylum applications and demands on public services, which outrage the right. This is all avoidable. 

It is in all Americans' interest to show the U.S.' humanity and efficiency in dealing with this crisis, and stop criminal gangs from profiting from this trade. 

We can do this now, by investing in the technology that could indicate future immigration spikes, allowing the U.S. and neighboring countries to understand the true causes of mass border crossings – and prepare for them. 

We should put at least as much effort into managing the flow of human beings as we do into the flow of goods. Smart management, AI and data sharing can do that now.

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