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The American people are increasingly concerned about public safety, and it’s easy to see why. A spike in murder rates led to the deadliest year on record for many major cities last year. For the first time on record, more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses during a 12-month period. And it seems like headlines are dominated by subway attacks, gang shootouts, and other terrifying incidents.
Drugs. Crime. Violence. This is not the rosy picture the American people were promised in the last election.
When looking at the factors that fuel concerns about violence – and our ability to mitigate it – we can’t ignore the crisis along our southern border.
FILE – A migrant waits on the Mexican side of the border after United States Customs and Border Protection officers detained a couple of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border on the beach, in Tijuana, Mexico, Jan. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File) (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)
Over the past year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has encountered a record-breaking 2.2 million migrants along the southern border. While the majority of those individuals do not pose a security threat to the American people, the chaos of mass migration does. When Border Patrol agents are outnumbered and overwhelmed, it opens gateways for truly dangerous criminals and substances to move across our border undetected.
Last fall, we saw a stunning example of how this happens. In a matter of days, more than 15,000 migrants arrived at the border in Del Rio, Texas. Administration officials later told Congressional staff that this massive surge was a coordinated effort by the cartels, who directed migrants to a single location, so law enforcement personnel from other areas would be relocated, clearing a path for their illicit trade corridor. The plan worked perfectly.
Cartels and criminal organizations are commodity agnostic – they deal in any illicit practice that turns a profit. They dupe vulnerable migrants into paying thousands of dollars a head to make the dangerous journey north. They smuggle guns that could end up on the streets in any city in America. And they traffic prolific amounts of drugs.
Every day, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, and a range of dangerous drugs pour across the southern border. In the first three months of this year alone, CBP seized more than 150,000 pounds of drugs. These drugs do more than fuel the overdose epidemic – they also catalyze even more crime and violence in America including everything from violence between gangs who sell drugs, to robberies by addicts who need money.
Cartels and criminal organizations aren’t just smuggling their products into the United States – they’re also trying to send their people. While overall border encounters skyrocketed during the 2021 Fiscal Year, the number of gang members apprehended by Border Patrol actually decreased. At first glance this seems like great news, but the data doesn’t provide a full picture of what’s actually happening. Border Patrol officials have explicitly said that gang members exploit migration surges in an attempt to evade arrest. In other words: record levels of migration provide an excellent disguise for gang members.
Fox News reported that since last October, more than 300,000 migrants have evaded Border Patrol, though the actual figure may be significantly higher. There’s no way of knowing who those people are or what they may have trafficked into our country.
American families are already deeply concerned about violent crime, and the Biden administration seems content to let the crisis rage on. The president has even attempted to end the use of Title 42 – one of the few tools it has to avoid even more chaos at the border.
Rather than take any sort of productive action to address the border crisis, the Biden administration has consistently tried to play the blame game. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently claimed the Administration “inherited a broken and dismantled system.” There’s no question our immigration system is in need of reforms, but it must be noted that the Biden administration is playing on the same field as previous administrations.
President Biden has had 15 months to use his authorities to address the border crisis or, better yet, work with Congress on a legislative solution. I’ve repeatedly offered my Bipartisan Border Solutions Act as a starting point for negotiations. The bill already has bipartisan, bicameral support, but the Biden administration has refused to engage, and instead published a plan that fails to invest the resources necessary to deter mass migration.
The humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border will not go away on its own, and Congress cannot undertake broader immigration reforms until the border crisis has been addressed.
While the American people fear crime and violence, cartels and criminal organizations get rich off the chaos at our southern border. The Biden administration can’t continue to allow the border to act as a corridor for drugs and criminals to reach our communities.