Weekly Columns

What’s Really Happening Along Our Southern Border

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Washington, January 23, 2019 | comments

Since my first day in Congress, I’ve said we need to ensure our border is secure and enact comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately, misinformation about what is happening along the border is being circulated these days and a lot of people are wondering “What is really going on at our southern border?” I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the facts. The problem is not just the influx of aliens crossing the border illegally, but it’s also the criminal activity, including drugs and human trafficking.

The amount of illicit drugs crossing our southern border is astounding. Between October 2017 and August 2018 alone, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized over 54,000 pounds of cocaine; over 5,000 pounds of heroin; over 722,000 pounds of marijuana; over 77,000 pounds of methamphetamine; and over 1,600 pounds of fentanyl. Of these amounts, some of the drugs are seized by customs agents at legal ports of entry and some are seized by border patrol agents. The reality is this: we have a better chance of stopping illegally-trafficked narcotics when they come through legal ports of entry because of the security presence and enhanced technology available. That’s why a physical barrier will help – it will further deter traffickers from attempting to cross in places other than legal ports of entry. Our country is dealing with an opioid crisis with over 300 Americans die every week from heroin alone, and 90 percent of heroin comes across our southern border. This can’t continue, we need to make it harder to get these drugs into our country. 

There is also a growing humanitarian crisis along our southern border. Human trafficking is rampant among the migrant groups attempting to cross over into the United States. Between April and September 2018, 507 illegal immigrants posed as parents with children, putting these children at an increased risk for human and sex trafficking. Another way individuals smuggle in migrants is through a caravan to overwhelm our security. This past November around 10,000 people arrived at our southern border as a part of the largest migrant caravan on record, and our CPB stations and ports of entry are at 100% capacity. A physical barrier will help give our officers time to track these individuals to prevent human trafficking before they cross into the U.S.

In addition to the criminal risks, the trip itself from Central America is extremely dangerous. The Border Patrol reports that in Fiscal Year 2017, the most recent year data is available, 294 migrants died while making the journey across our southern border. The long journey can lead to severe dehydration, starvation and many other illnesses resulting in 50 migrants per day being referred to medical providers once they reach our border. There is also physical abuse – 7 out of 10 migrants are reported to be victims of violence, and 31 percent of women have been sexually assaulted during the journey. This trip is dangerous, and while we want to help these individuals and families fleeing the dangers in their home countries, we must still maintain a strong border and preserve our immigration laws and national sovereignty. 

Finally, crime of all kinds is a real concern along our border. In Fiscal Year 2018 alone there were 17,000 adults arrested that had criminal records, and 6,000 gang members apprehended at the border. According to NBC News, CBP encountered six immigrants on a list of known or suspected terrorists over the course of six months. While six may not seem like a large number, remember that only 19 terrorists were responsible for the 9/11 attacks that killed 2,977 Americans. 

This crisis needs to be addressed, and a physical barrier works. Currently 654 miles on our southern border have a physical barrier, and in those areas illegal traffic has dropped over 90 percent since they have been built. This past weekend President Trump made a good-faith offer to the Congressional Democrats to fund the physical barrier and reopen the government. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi turned down the offer before the proposal was even announced. Democratic leaders’ unwillingness to come to the table or to propose a counteroffer is what is keeping our government closed. What surprises me is the House Democrat Leadership team, who is in charge of negotiating, all voted in favor to provide more than $1 billion for fencing along the southwest border in Fiscal Year 2007. Effective border security can reduce the amount of crime, drugs, human trafficking and terror attacks that occur in our country, and to do this, we must give DHS the resources they need to do their job effectively. I remain hopeful we can reach a commonsense, bipartisan deal with President Trump’s support that reopens the government and funds the president’s reasonable request to secure our border.
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