The opinion of law enforcement officials who protect the safety of communities along our southern border is unanimous. The crisis at the border is a direct consequence of illegal migrants using our humanitarian asylum policies and our legal system against us.
The obvious winners from this situation are the migrants themselves. They fully understand that by “flooding the zone,” they have managed to paralyze our immigration law enforcement system. Tens of thousands of new asylum applicants from the Northern Triangle Countries of Central America (91 percent of which are without merit), are adding to the 786,000 asylum cases already backlogging the system means that new arrivals might get to remain in this country for years before their cases are heard (if they bother to show up at all).
They also know that we do not have the capacity to detain all but a few of the most recent arrivals, and congressional Democrats have made it clear that they will not green light funding for any additional detention space. Moreover, owing to a 2015 ruling by a single federal judge, we cannot hold people who show up with kids for more than 20 days, even if we had detention space available — another circumstance that Congress could easily remedy, but chooses not to.
The more than 100,000 people apprehended entering our country illegally each month are not bad people, for the most part. They are poor people from dysfunctional, and often violent, countries who are taking advantage of well-intended laws and policies that we created, but were not designed to address the circumstances we face today.
But there are others who are also taking full advantage of the chaos that has resulted from Congress’s collective refusal to fix the glaring shortcomings in our asylum, detention, and other immigration policies. Those others are bad guys. The criminal cartels that are supplying an increasingly large share of the opioids killing more than 70,000 Americans each year are entering our country across the southern border.
Spending several days with law enforcement officials in West Texas last week provides a grim picture of the ripple effects of the surge of illegal migrants and asylum abusers. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is charged with monitoring the legal ports of entry along our borders and preventing people from entering illegally along other areas of the border.
The already short-staffed CBP is being stretched thin by the massive surge of bogus asylum seekers and families with children. Instead of doing thorough checks of people and vehicles crossing at legal ports of entry, protecting wide-open stretches of border, and manning inland checkpoints, these law enforcement agents are processing meritless asylum claims. They spend a good portion of the their remaining time doing paperwork on people who they know will disappear the moment they are released, and attending to families and children until they are released and replaced by more families and children.
While the resources of CBP are being diverted to these tasks, the criminal cartels are capitalizing. As opponents of expansion of secure border fencing correctly point out, a large share of the narcotics and other contraband crossing the border comes right through legal ports of entry — while conveniently ignoring that the people who are supposed to be policing those ports have their hands full dealing with the consequences of asylum and detention policies Congress refuses to fix.
Border Patrol agents, who are the only line of defense in more remote (and completely unfenced) areas of the border are being also being reassigned to what they refer to as “babysitting duty,” instead of protecting the border from the drug cartels. The Interior checkpoint along Interstate 10 just east of El Paso — an important corridor for drug-runners — which serves as a second line of defense, stands empty as agents who previously manned it have been called in to process asylum seekers.
The fallout from the crisis filters down to local law enforcement. Hudspeth County, a vast expanse of 4,500 square miles east of El Paso, protected by fewer than two dozen sheriffs’ deputies (the county has no local police departments) has seen an increase in crime, nearly all of which they attribute to people “who are not residents of the country” (read: foreign criminals).
It is clear from speaking to law enforcement officers on the front lines, that as long as Congress does not act to address the crisis — ending asylum abuse, fixing detention policies, and funding secure fencing and other border infrastructure — the situation will continue to fester. Under those circumstances, asylum abusers win. Criminal cartels win. The only losers are the American people — a cohort whose interests Congress continues to hold in contempt.
Ira Mehlman is media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a nonprofit group that advocates for legal immigration.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.