Policy Issues / Secure Borders

Policy Brief: A Comprehensive Overview of the Crisis at the U.S. Southern Border

Decades of flawed policy, political malpractice, and a misguided consensus from bureaucratic elites in Washington have effectively turned over vast swaths of the U.S. southern border to violent international drug cartels.

Decades of flawed policy, political malpractice, and a misguided consensus from bureaucratic elites in Washington have effectively turned over vast swaths of the U.S. southern border to violent international drug cartels. The ongoing illegal immigration crisis has metastasized into both a national security and humanitarian disaster, with current activity seeing unprecedented levels of illegal migration, human trafficking, and drug smuggling.

The policies that began to curb the lawlessness on the U.S. southern border during the Trump administration have since been undone by the Biden administration. Federal agents are overwhelmed, cartels are empowered, and American communities are being flooded with crime and drugs.

The right policies combined with a mindset dedicated to protecting American citizens and American sovereignty can reverse this entirely avoidable catastrophe. 

Background: The Current State of the U.S. Southern Border
The U.S. southern border is in complete disarray as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of migrants illegally crossing into the United States. 

Furthermore, violent international drug cartels have de facto control over vast swaths of the border — moving people, deadly narcotics, and violent criminals into American communities at levels not seen in decades.

In the first six months under the Biden administration, illegal immigrant apprehensions at the border are up 397 percent from the same period in 2020. This crisis follows in the wake of a series of high-profile policy reversals that the Biden administration enacted to undo Trump administration initiatives that were succeeding in restoring operational control of the southern border to the U.S. government. 

For decades, politicians in Washington D.C. did little to mitigate illegal crossings between ports-of-entry all while enacting or attempting to enact policies that instead serve as magnets for illegal immigration. 

Indeed, twice in the past fourteen years, bipartisan groups of lawmakers in Congress attempted to ram through mass amnesty for illegal immigrants, only to fail after millions of American citizens and workers rose up to signal loud political opposition. These amnesty attempts followed in the same misguided policy footsteps as the 1986 amnesty for nearly 3 million non-citizens, codified in the Immigration Reform and Control Act passed by Congress and signed by then-President Ronald Reagan.

Destructive legislative efforts that encourage illegal immigration have been exacerbated by radical judges and poorly-devised court rulings resulting in chaotic and ultimately lawless policies such as the Flores Settlement Agreement, tying the hands of federal border agents when it comes to unaccompanied alien children (UACs) and illegal crossings involving families, fueling “catch-and-release” protocols that dump illegal immigrants into American communities through judicial fiat.

Policy actions from the executive branch, such as former President Obama’s constitutionally-dubious executive memoranda on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also served as a catalyst for illicit activity on the southern border. DACA ushered in increasingly larger waves of illegal immigration, particularly in the form of unaccompanied alien children, a major revenue source for human trafficking organizations. 

As violent international drug cartels have grown increasingly powerful in Mexico and other Central American nations, human trafficking and narcotics smuggling have naturally become more lucrative, serving as the means for these violent organizations to maintain their territorial and political control.

It remains a disturbing fact that most illegal drugs and narcotics enter the United States through the southern border, a finding the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) highlighted in a recently-released threat assessment dossier in March of this year. The DEA report also outlines that fentanyl, a deadly narcotic that is smuggled into the U.S. by violent international drug cartels, is primarily responsible for fueling the ongoing opioid epidemic that killed nearly 37,000 Americans in 2019 and a horrific 57,550 people in 2020, an increase of 54 percent in just one year. An April report from CBP highlights that more fentanyl has been seized by federal agents so far through the first four months of 2021 (6,494lbs) than all of 2020 (4,776lbs). Only 2 mg of fentanyl is needed to kill someone, meaning that already this year, border agents have seized enough fentanyl to kill almost 1.5 billion people.

As transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) like the drug cartels continue to move these deadly products into American communities at disturbingly high rates, human trafficking also continues to escalate. Data provided by CBP in March 2021 estimated that cartels, trafficking organizations, and other criminal groups are now earning nearly $14 million a day moving people illegally across the southern border. These violent international cartels are raking in billions of dollars every year off the pain, suffering, and abuse of migrants. Doctors Without Borders released a report in 2019 that found one out of every three women reported “abuse” by the cartels and human traffickers during their journey to cross into the United States. 

For perspective on the sheer volume of people coming into the United States illegally, border apprehensions in May 2021 exceeded an astounding 180,000 illegal immigrants. These numbers, courtesy of CBP, account for nearly 40 percent of all 2020 apprehensions in just a single month. That is a 775 percent year-over-year increase from May 2020 to May 2021.

Numbers recently released by CBP for June 2021 recorded nearly 189,000 apprehensions, eclipsing 1 million illegal immigrant apprehensions with one-third of the fiscal year still remaining. 

Importantly, these apprehensions only reflect that: apprehensions. The exact number of illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. is far higher as CBP lacks both the manpower and resources to apprehend every individual that crosses illegally between ports-of-entry. Some estimates from CBP officials suggest that at least 1,000 people every day are now sneaking into the United States without being apprehended or identified in the current climate.

With numbers this high and data this alarming, there is simply no way to overstate the crisis at the U.S. southern border. Indeed, the current state of the border did not happen overnight and can largely be attributed to both bad policy and bad actors.

Recent and historical actions that have and continue to contribute to the border crisis include:

  • The Bracero Program: This migrant labor program stemming from the 1942 Mexican Farm Labor Agreement laid the modern groundwork for linking American agriculture with cheap labor imported from Central America. The program, which began in Stockton, California, and included nearly 5 million total participants, guaranteed a minimum wage and living standards for migrant farmworkers in an effort to backfill the labor shortage due to the Second World War. The existence of the Bracero program led directly to the creation of the H-2A visa program for temporary agriculture work. While ultimately terminated in 1964, the Bracero program serves as the historical and intellectual predecessor for big business’ desire for cheap labor and so-called “temporary guest-worker programs.”
  • The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act: This act codified amnesty for nearly 3 million illegal aliens, setting precedent for future amnesty attempts as well as the hollow political promise to secure the border after granting amnesty.
  • The Flores Settlement Agreement: This legal agreement was first set in place in 1997 following a lawsuit (Flores v. Lynch) and settlement that challenged the detention of illegal alien children. Migrant children were required to be placed in the least restrictive setting possible. In 2015, however, a radical ruling from Ninth Circuit Judge Dolly Gee interpreted Flores to include families and required release of minors within 20 days fueling the “separation crisis.”
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: The Supreme Court’s refusal to issue an opinion on the substantive constitutionality of the Obama administration’s DACA executive memoranda has kept the door open for continued lawless executive actions regarding illegal immigration.
  • William Wilberforce Law: This 2008 anti-trafficking law was passed in the final days of President George W. Bush’s second term and was aimed at protecting children from human traffickers. However, the law’s provisions allow minors suspected of being trafficked to remain in the United States until a full hearing can transpire. The backlog from these cases created lengthy wait times and sent a message to Central America that UACs could wind up in immigration limbo, stay in the United States, and there was a diminished possibility of deportation.
  • Soft Interior Enforcement: The Obama administration’s implementation of “prosecutorial discretion” greatly undermined the ability of law enforcement to uphold existing immigration laws and created an additional magnet for illegal immigration. The guidelines outlined in the prosecutorial discretion resulted in the mass release of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants into American communities. In 2013 alone, ICE released 68,000 criminal illegal aliens into the United States. The Biden administration tipped their hand to the re-implementation of this policy in a memo on May 27, 2021.
  • Reversal of Lawful Executive Orders: The Biden administration’s reversal of strong border policies enacted under the Trump administration, such as the Remain in Mexico policy, safe third country rule, cooperation agreements, and border barrier construction are exacerbating the current catastrophe.

This is both a security and humanitarian crisis: one that can be solved if there was simply the political will to enforce existing U.S. law and adopt sound policies that place the livelihoods and safety of American citizens above those of non-citizens who intentionally violate American law.

Policy Reversals Fueling the Crisis
During the Trump administration, myriad policies were implemented to better secure the U.S. southern border and stem the tide of human trafficking, drugs, and violence coming into American communities.

Among them was the implementation of the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP). This policy, better known as Remain in Mexico, required illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers to return to Mexico to await adjudication of their immigration proceedings. Authorized under Section 235 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the MPP was a successful tool to stem the flow of illegal immigration and essentially preventing “catch-and-release”.

However, on June 1, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the MPP had been officially terminated. This decision came just days before an official Border Patrol report showed an astounding 180,000 illegal immigrants had been apprehended by federal agents in the month of May, hitting the highest levels seen in 21 years.

On his very first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order that ended the emergency declaration on the border and halted construction of the border wall.

Additionally, President Biden signed Executive Order 14010 on February 2, 2021, which reinstituted the flawed “catch-and-release” policy that President Trump had appropriately ended with Executive Order 13767 on January 25, 2017. 

By willingly putting “catch-and-release” back into practice, the Biden administration effectively sent a direct message to the cartels and human traffickers in Mexico and Central America that the U.S. government has no intention of attempting to stem the flow of illegal immigration, incentivizing the illicit business model of these dangerous TCOs.

Furthermore, Executive Order 14010 also announced the pause of the “safe third country” asylum rule which had been secured by the Trump administration through successful diplomatic cooperation with the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. 

The “safe third country” rule required potential asylum-seekers to first seek asylum in safe nations along their journey as a way to deter false asylum claims and relieve pressure on the border.

In tandem, the order simultaneously terminated the asylum cooperative agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras that were critical for bolstering border security and mitigating migration in the Northern Triangle.

The results of the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy, asylum cooperative agreements, and “safe third country” rule are indisputable. By May 2020, with all three policies fully implemented, illegal immigration apprehensions at the U.S. southern border declined by 84 percent year-over-year. 

However, three months after halting construction of the border wall, reinstituting “catch-and-release,” pausing the “safe third country” asylum rule, and ending the asylum cooperative agreements, the Biden administration’s decision to overturn these Trump era border policies has resulted in a 675 percent increase in illegal immigrant apprehensions from May 2020 to May 2021.

The good news is that man-made disasters stemming from political and policy decisions can be undone. The bad news is that if they are not, the consequences will continue to be far-reaching, devastating, and destabilizing for millions of Americans.

Implications of the Border Crisis
The lack of willingness to address the border crisis has far-reaching implications for both American citizens and the migrants who are abused by and indebted to violent international drug cartels and human traffickers during their journey.

Humanitarian Disaster
The fact that nearly a third of migrant women report abuse from human traffickers and cartel operatives during their journey to the U.S. should be a leading reason for U.S. policymakers to shut off the beacons that drive millions to make such a dangerous trek.

Nevertheless, an early April 2021 report from independent inspectors assigned to monitor U.S. border facilities revealed that detainment and holding centers such as the one in Donna, Texas are beyond overwhelmed and cannot provide for the basic needs of those who have entered illegally because of the sheer volume of people. 

At the time of the report, the Donna facility was at 1,624 percent of its holding capacity with nearly 3,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) being held. Of those 3,000 UACs, some 500 of them were younger than 12 years old.

So far in FY2021, there have been 95,079 unaccompanied minors taken into U.S. custody at the southern border. This is a 186 percent increase over FY2020 numbers despite there being four more full months remaining in the current fiscal year. 

At the current rate, the U.S. will have apprehended some 120,000 unaccompanied children at the southern border by the end of the fiscal year.

Aside from disturbing images of young children being dropped over the border barrier by human traffickers, those who are trafficked often find themselves indebted to those who trafficked them, with their families and loved ones back home held in de facto ransom as payment for moving them into the United States.

A March 2021 story revealed CBP estimates detailing the price tag for people being trafficked:

  • Children and Family: Between $4,000 and $5,000
  • Single Adults: Between $8,000 and $9,000
  • Mexican Nationals: Between $5,000 and $6,000

A recent June 2021 report suggests that South Americans are charged as much as $15,000 to be smuggled into the United States.

The bottom line is that women are being abused. Children are being separated from their families and trafficked. Violent cartels and criminal organizations are getting rich. 

Crime Waves
The rising crime all across the nation has many causes, including radical efforts to defund law enforcement, ending cash bail policies, and activist judges who refuse to uphold the law and release criminals back out onto the streets. However, the unsecured southern border is also fueling increasing numbers of criminal illegal alien activity in communities.

While many come to the United States seeking a better life, it is indisputable that significant numbers of illegal immigrants are criminals and are contributing to increasing crime waves across the United States. 

So far in FY2021, CBP agents have apprehended some 7,000 illegal immigrants with prior criminal convictions. In comparison to the last border surge in 2019, this is a 62 percent increase in convicted criminal alien apprehensions.

Data provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows that in the last 10 years, in Texas alone, some 233,000 illegal aliens have been charged with over 380,000 criminal offenses. 

Among these include:

  • 706 homicide charges
  • 44,352 assault charges
  • 47,077 drug charges
  • 4,699 sexual assault charges
  • 5,843 sexual offense charges
  • 645 kidnapping charges

These charges have thus far resulted in over 147,000 convictions in Texas alone.

The Department of Justice found that illegal aliens comprised 64 percent of all federal arrests in 2018. Nearly two-thirds of all people arrested by federal authorities that year were not American citizens.

Additionally, in 2018, federal arrests of Mexican nationals alone (78,062) outnumbered federal arrests of U.S. citizens (70,542). And in that same year, 25 percent of all federal drug arrests occurred in the five judicial districts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In FY2020, illegal immigrants arrested by law enforcement authorities had on average four criminal charges or convictions.

Lawlessness and crime, transported into interior American communities, is a fundamental feature of an unsecured southern border.

The Opioid Overdose Epidemic Stems from an Unsecured Border
Awash in deadly narcotics and drugs, American families are suffering from reckless policies leaving the nation’s neighborhoods and communities exposed to the products of international narco-terrorists.

The number of Americans dying from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid crossing the southern border in record amounts, has almost single-handedly fueled the opioid epidemic. Contrary to the elite media consensus, the opioid epidemic is not being driven by doctors overprescribing addictive pain medication.

It is driven by TCOs like the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel through the southern border and into the hands of dealers in American cities and suburban communities.

As revealed during a 2017 House Energy and Commerce hearing, China acts as the primary source of fentanyl production. Labs in China make the ingredients necessary to produce illicit fentanyl and then traffickers move the ingredients and counterfeit presses to hidden labs in Mexico run by the cartels. The cartels then manufacture and churn out the final product which is then pushed across the southern border into American towns.

In 2019, more than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. Of that number, 36,359 Americans died from overdosing on fentanyl and its synthetic cousins. This number climbed to 57,550 Americans who died from synthetic opioids in 2020. In just seven years, the number of dead Americans from synthetic opioid overdoses has increased by a gut-wrenching 1,754 percent from the 3,105 Americans who died from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2013.

According to a Wilson Center report in 2018, Mexico and specifically violent TCOs like the Sinaloa Cartel have emerged as the leading purveyors of synthetic opioids into American communities. 

Here is a brief snapshot of the rise in fentanyl production and seizures at the southern border:

  • In FY2017, federal agents seized 1,377 pounds of fentanyl at the border.
  • In FY2018, federal agents seized 2,283 pounds of fentanyl at the border.
  • In FY2019, federal agents seized 2,801 pounds of fentanyl at the border.
  • In FY2020, federal agents seized 4,776 pounds of fentanyl at the border.
  • In FY2021 year-to-date, federal agents have seized 8,507 pounds of fentanyl at the border.

Given the 517 percent increase in fentanyl seizures in just the last four years and the skyrocketing increase in synthetic opioid deaths, it is clear that the unsecured southern border and violent international drug cartels are almost exclusively to blame for the opioid epidemic.

Simply put, the more porous the southern border, the more funerals American families are forced to endure as they bury more of their loved ones.

Separate from fentanyl and the deadly synthetics being smuggled into American communities, cocaine seizures are up almost 19 percent in FY2021 from their levels just one year ago with four full months remaining in the fiscal year.

Compassion is Control: The Path Forward
As migrants and American citizens alike suffer the carnage of an unsecured border overrun by violent TCOs like the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and Reynosa faction of the Gulf Cartel, it is imperative that leaders at all levels of elected office act to end this humanitarian and security crisis as soon as possible.

The only true compassionate response is regaining full operational control of the border. 

This must be done by enacting policies that discourage any additional illegal immigration, cracking down on criminal illegal aliens through strong interior enforcement, working with partner countries to scrutinize and assess asylum claims before migrants continue their journey north, targeting the violent human trafficking and drug cartels in a similar manner as we target radical Islamic terrorists, providing CBP and ICE with the resources they need to carry out their duties, and completing a border barrier capable of deterring continued lawlessness.

Federal Response
The Biden administration must step forward and embrace the following actions to protect the American people:

  • Reinstitute the Migration Protection Protocols (Remain in Mexico) that would require illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers to return to Mexico to await adjudication of their immigration proceedings. Section 235 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides the executive branch with the full authority to implement this policy.
  • Continue utilizing Title 42 public health authority to not only protect Americans from further spread of COVID-19, but also from contagious diseases not endemic in the United States. This authority is necessary for providing federal border agents with the authority to send illegal immigrants back to Mexico, a requirement to curb unprecedented apprehension numbers and better protect the health of U.S. citizens.
  • Reinstitute the “safe third-country” asylum rule and asylum cooperative agreements with the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This rule, which the Biden administration terminated in an executive order in February 2021, required those seeking asylum in the U.S. to first seek asylum in a safe nation along their journey as a way to deter false asylum claims and relieve pressure on the increasingly unsustainable number of asylum proceedings.
  • End “catch-and-release” policies by keeping families together in custody while their cases are pending. 
  • Begin diplomatic efforts with the government of Mexico to create a security buffer zone south of the Rio Grande wherein the U.S. and Mexican militaries work together to create a “no-go” zone for drug cartels, human smuggling rings, and human traffickers.

In addition, Congress should pass the following legislation that addresses both the root causes of the border crisis and protects the very citizens they are elected to represent:

  • Designate the Reynosa/Los Metros faction of the Gulf Cartel, the Cartel Del Noreste affiliated with the Los Zetas syndicate, and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), thereby opening up the full breadth of federal resources and responses capable of ending the presence of these brutal narco-terrorists on our southern border.
  • Tighten the “credible fear” standard for asylum seekers so individuals apprehended between ports-of-entry cannot abuse the asylum process. Furthermore, the standard must be raised so there is automatic dismissal and deportation of those seeking asylum due to difficult living conditions or economic factors. Asylum must be strictly predicated on the credible fear of persecution by a foreign government or designated entity due to one’s religious beliefs, political beliefs, or ethnicity.
  • Amend the Immigration and Naturalization Act to create a specific process for unaccompanied alien children (UACs) whereby these teenagers and kids are safely and efficiently returned to their country-of-origin and not released to individuals, especially non-citizens, residing in the United States.
  • Appropriate the necessary resources in FY2022 to continue constructing a border barrier and wall system that will deter illegal crossings; to provide CBP with the resources they need to bolster their manpower, clear carrizo cane along the Rio Grande for greater visibility, build navigable roads to maintain control between ports-of-entry, utilize high-tech cameras and portable surveillance technology to spot and track smugglers, and successfully carry out their mission; and to provide Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with the resources they need to properly house and process any illegal aliens.
  • Nullify the Flores Settlement Agreement and Judge Gee’s expansion of the agreement through legislative statute.
  • Strip sanctuary cities and counties of any and all federal funding should they refuse to abide by federal immigration law. 
  • Prohibit DHS and HHS from easing border health provisions unless and until the public health emergency under Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act is rescinded, every State rescinds its public health declarations, and the Director of the CDC declares travel to and from Mexico and Canada to once again be safe for public health.

State Response
Just as the federal government must take decisive action to regain control over the border, so too should state governments take action necessary to protect their communities and citizens. Specifically, these actions include:

  • Border state governors utilizing their commander-in-chief and emergency authority to permanently deploy available National Guard units to the border to provide operational, logistical, and material support to CBP and other federal agents.
  • Border state governors utilizing their executive authority to move available state law enforcement personnel to the border to help enforce both state law and federal immigration law as allowed.
  • Border state governors issuing executive orders that encourage county and local law enforcement to deputize private citizens in border counties and towns with the power to enforce state law as pertains to criminal activity until the crisis abates.
  • Non-border state governors utilizing their commander-in-chief authority to send available National Guard units and state law enforcement personnel to border states to bolster existing efforts. Governors Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Pete Ricketts (R-NE) recently announced efforts to send personnel to assist Texas and Arizona.
  • State legislators passing legislation to create an interstate compact for the express purpose of creating a multistate interagency task force that utilizes available law enforcement personnel to reinforce enforcement activities along the U.S. southern border.
  • State legislators passing legislation that strips all sanctuary counties and municipalities of any and all state funding should they refuse to abide by federal immigration law.
  • State legislators passing legislation that strips all counties and municipalities that defund law enforcement of any and all additional state funding.
  • State legislators passing legislation mandating E-Verify to protect U.S. workers and deter businesses from hiring illegal immigrants to access cheap labor.

Concluding Assessment
The status quo on the U.S. southern border is an existential threat to the safety and security of the American people that must end through immediate and forceful action. 

The lawlessness that is allowed to fester undermines American sovereignty, feeds into ongoing criminal and opioid epidemics ravaging American communities, endangers hundreds of thousands of vulnerable migrants, and empowers violent international trafficking and drug cartels with money and resources they use to murder and destabilize governments.

With illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and human smuggling at unprecedented levels, immediate policy actions must be implemented to protect our citizens and communities. Anything less than a full border crackdown renders moot the notion that Americans are represented by citizens who have their best interests at heart.

Addendum: Operationalizing Border Security and the Three Phases of Control
The focus of elected officials should be on implementing policy changes at the three phases of illegal immigration and illegal border activity: before border arrival (BBA Phase), at the border (ATB Phase), and post border crossing (PBC Phase). 

This section will describe hypothetical scenarios of what each of these phases could and should look like with a combination of good public policy and the full implementation of resources.

Before Border Arrival Phase: Deterrence, Mitigation, and Cooperation
Arguably the most critical phase, policies enacted that discourage and mitigate illegal immigration before arriving at the border are imperative for regaining control. Safeguards and checkpoints should be a prolific component of the BBA phase. 

As an example, here is what the journey to the U.S. southern border should look like with operationalized and enacted security for anyone attempting to cross illegally:

The Asylum Seeker

  • Before even deciding to make the journey to cross illegally, the migrant should know whether his asylum claim is valid under U.S. statute. If it is meritless, he knows that upon apprehension either at a port-of-entry or between ports-of-entry, he will be subjected to an expedited removal to a holding station in Mexico while a newly-empowered U.S. judge adjudicates his claim with speed and purpose.
  • If his asylum claim is rejected due to a meritless claim, the migrant knows that upon a second attempt and apprehension by U.S. border agents, he will face immediate deportation, a hefty fine, and possible charges upon relocation back to his country of origin.
  • The migrant knows that if he attempts a third illegal crossing into the United States and is apprehended, he will face a minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison with no chance of parole due to his lack of citizenship.
  • Therefore, if the migrant believes he needs asylum out of his home country, he knows he must first seek asylum in a safe third country as his asylum claim is meritless under U.S. law. This means the migrant understands that cooperative agreements with Central American nations provide a potentially better opportunity to relocate elsewhere before deciding to continue the journey north.
  • However, if the migrant has a valid asylum claim, he knows that he should first go to a U.S. consulate in his home country or enter through a valid port-of-entry to have his case adjudicated. He knows that any attempt to enter the United States illegally, between ports-of-entry, will result in his deportation and potential invalidation of his asylum claim due to recently updated provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Illegal Immigrant

  • For the migrant who has no intention of seeking asylum, but tries to illegally cross between ports-of-entry in a bid to slip through undetected, he knows that upon apprehension by newly-empowered CBP agents, he will be subjected to a rigorous inspection for contraband and past criminal history while being held in a detention facility for guaranteed removal and deportation.
  • If he is caught attempting to smuggle illicit goods, narcotics, or people on behalf of the violent drug cartels, recently labeled as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) under U.S. law, he knows that he will be swiftly subjected to criminal prosecution in the United States as an FTO operative with the chance of possible rendition (depending on the severity of his history and crimes) or extradition to his home country for trial and imprisonment.
  • If he is caught attempting to smuggle illicit goods, narcotics, or people on behalf of the violent drug cartels and attempts to forcibly and violently resist apprehension, he knows that a newly-empowered CBP has the authority to take all action necessary to secure the U.S. border and deter terrorist activity on the U.S. homeland. 
  • He is fearful of being apprehended because he knows his best-case scenario is immediate deportation followed by criminal charges in his home country thanks to recently signed cooperation agreements between the government of the United States and nations in Central America.

The Temporary Visa Applicant

  • For the migrant who does not have a valid asylum claim and does not intend to make one, but seeks to temporarily enter the United States legally at a port-of-entry, he knows that he will undergo inspection by a well-armed and newly bolstered Customs and Border Protection agency working in tandem with various federal and state law enforcement agencies who have been tasked with neutralizing cartel control over the southern border.
  • Because several of the cartels have been designated as foreign terrorist organizations, the migrant knows he should expect the same scrutiny and screening that visitors face when visiting similar serious security-minded nations like Israel, Poland, and Taiwan.
  • The migrant knows that his temporary visa, issued on a specific basis, means he must return to his home country and exit the United States before its expiration, lest he face serious consequences in both the United States and his home country, including an arrest warrant from federal authorities that will likely result in deportation, fines, and prison time.

The Cartel Operative

  • The human trafficker, drug smuggler, and violent cartel enforcer are finding their territorial control increasingly shrinking as joint U.S.-Mexico police operations apply intense pressure on their safehouses, bases, and informants. He is increasingly concerned for his own safety and no longer believes his business model, predicated on human suffering, is a long-term viability.
  • The human trafficker, drug smuggler, and violent cartel enforcer know that any attempt to physically cross into the United States will be met with the full force of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, CBP, various state Departments of Public Safety, and Drug Enforcement Administration agents–all recently empowered by both the U.S. Congress and President to take all lawful action necessary to defend the sovereignty and border of the United States.
  • The human trafficker, drug smuggler, and violent cartel enforcer knows that if his contraband (be it fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, or sex trafficking victims) are discovered by U.S. authorities, there is a good chance that recently-deployed technology and equipment to the U.S. border will give joint U.S.-Mexican law enforcement forces the ability and approval to find him, engage him, and possibly kill him. He is in retreat, fearful of the new mindset in the U.S. and in Central American nations that finally aims to put the well-being of their citizens at the forefront of their priorities.

At the Border Phase: Security, Vigilance, and Compassion
Once someone has arrived at the border, procedures must be in place alongside adequate resources that allow CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to do their job fully and competently. The ATB phase is where security meets threat and will require significant policy changes that are detailed in a section further down.

As an example, here are scenarios detailing what apprehension at the U.S. border should look like with operationalized and enacted security for anyone attempting to cross illegally:

The Asylum Seeker

  • The migrant has been apprehended by U.S. authorities after attempting to cross illegally between ports-of-entry. He knows that his asylum claim is in jeopardy. The recently updated statutes within the Immigration and Nationality Act have imposed a clearer and tougher standard for what constitutes “credible fear” and a valid asylum claim. He also knows that the recently overturned Flores Settlement Agreement has been replaced by a new policy that keeps families together to better protect children from possible abusers and traffickers.
  • The migrant and his accompanying children have been returned to a new facility in Mexico that houses illegal immigrants who have crossed into the United States while their cases are being adjudicated. Recently bolstered resources have increased the number of judges, empowering them with expedited decision-making and stricter congressionally-imposed standards of what truly constitutes asylum.
  • The migrant soon learns that his asylum claim is not valid and he will not be granted entry into the United States, though an investigation into his accompanying children from the new influx of resources and personnel to U.S. border agents reveals that both children are not related to him. He knows he may now face human trafficking charges from the U.S.-Mexico cooperation agreement. If authorities are able to tie him to the trafficking organization or any of the drug cartels, now designated as FTOs, he could face decades-long imprisonment in a U.S. or Mexican prison.

The Illegal Immigrant

  • The migrant has been apprehended attempting to sneak into the United States between ports-of-entry. As he sits in an ICE facility, he  knows at a minimum he will face immediate deportation. He believed the risk was worth the reward. However given this is his first offense, he knows he is unlikely to face imprisonment. If he attempts a second illegal crossing, he realizes that he will face a hefty fine and possible charges in his home country once he’s returned.
  • He is concerned though about the unaccompanied alien children (UACs) in the holding area next to him. He knows that the game used to be that if you brought children with you, the U.S. was almost guaranteed to grant entry through “catch and release” pending a hearing set at a later date. Those days are over. Recently-enacted legislation and executive orders officially ended “catch and release.”
  • Before his imminent deportation, the migrant watches as U.S. agents, child welfare specialists, and envoys from two other Central American countries feed the UACs and provide medical care as they work to determine the location of their real families. The migrant knows that UACs are now considered to be in the temporary custody of cooperative agencies on both sides of the border where they are first provided proper care and until they can be returned to their families. He knows that the human trafficker who attempted to move them into the U.S. illegally faces a far worse fate. 

The Cartel Operative

  • The human trafficker, long employed by the Sinaloa Cartel, has been apprehended by U.S. border authorities as the American government has finally grown serious about putting an end to the humanitarian and security crisis. His attempt to ransom a family in Honduras and move a half dozen UACs across the U.S. border backfired. An informant, likely working with American and Mexican law enforcement forces, ratted him out as the cartels face what appears to be a permanent crackdown.
  • The trafficker sits in an isolated ICE detention cell awaiting the coming interrogation from American counterterrorism and DHS agents. The cartels, many of which are seeing their grip loosen and their power wane, are under increasingly aggressive pressure from the U.S. and Central American nations.
  • The UACs that the trafficker brought with him are in the care of U.S. border agents, child welfare specialists, and envoys from other Central American families. He knows they will be returned home to their family. He also knows he is likely to face charges as an operative of a foreign terrorist organization. He has been told that his hearing has been expedited and has been assigned a government lawyer that he knows will likely attempt to get him to make a plea deal to give up other Sinaloa operatives along the border. He doesn’t want to face child trafficking charges. He doesn’t want to be renditioned to Honduras, who now works hand-in-hand with the U.S. to crack down on the lawlessness that once swept across Central America. He is afraid. And he is ready to cooperate.

Post Border Crossing Phase: Enforcement, Lawfulness, and Community Protection
Policies enacted that deal with illegal immigrants who have slipped past authorities at the border are the final piece necessary to put an end to the trafficking, drugs, and crime that have ravaged American communities. The PBC phase is the interior enforcement hammer to the BBA phase’s anvil.

As an example, here is what interior enforcement should look like with operationalized and enacted security for anyone attempting to cross illegally:

The Illegal Immigrant

  • The illegal alien has been inside the United States for two months, having successfully evaded CBP and in the Laredo Sector of the U.S. border. However, a routine traffic stop has turned into what he knows is a one-way ticket back to El Salvador. Recently-enacted legislation at both the federal and state level has cracked down on sanctuary cities. Facing the choice between dried-up funding or grudging agreement to work with federal authorities to crack down on illegal immigration, even urban cities and once progressive strongholds now enforce the law.
  • The illegal alien has been arrested and he knows that ICE agents are on their way to evaluate his status and prepare a hearing in front of an immigration judge. Given the lack of identification and his inability to show proof of a temporary visa, he knows he will be deported within 72 hours.
  • During his dialogue with ICE agents, he is informed that if he is apprehended a second time at the border or inside the United States, he faces criminal charges with a lengthy mandatory prison sentence and no hope of parole. 

The Cartel Operative and Criminal Illegal Gang Member

  • The recent crackdown by federal, state, and local law enforcement on cartel operatives inside major American cities has intensified. The MS-13 gang member, long on the payroll of the Reynosa faction of the Gulf Cartel, has been swept up in a dawn raid for distributing deadly fentanyl into his community, leading to at least seven suspected overdoses in the area.
  • He knows that as an American citizen, he will be provided the presumption of innocence and a defense attorney to plead his case before a jury of his peers as is his constitutional right. However, two of his associates, El Salvadoran nationals, will not be so fortunate. 
  • Under the new cooperative agreements between the U.S. and Central American nations, and due to the designation of the Reynosa faction as an FTO, his El Salvadoran associates at a minimum face rendition back to El Salvador. In a worst-case scenario, their association with the Reynosa faction will see them tried as operatives of an international terrorist organization where they are likely to face harsh imprisonment in a U.S. facility for the remainder of their lives.

These scenarios illustrate the various protocols and policies that would help put an end to the lawlessness engulfing the U.S. border and enveloping communities all over our nation.

Making this a reality and putting an end to the human carnage and suffering at our southern border will require robust policy changes that must come about from elected leaders willing to put the safety and well-being of American citizens at the forefront.