I have often spoken about the despicability of the $3.5 to $4.2 billion industry that engages in the smuggling of human beings from Central and South America to the United States. An overlooked February 2019 article from the Dallas Morning News underscores that point, and many others about the current crisis at the border.
The article, captioned "Guatemala town's residents weigh playing cat-and-mouse game on U.S. border", details the economic considerations that go into migrants' decisions to come to the United States illegally, and the sales pitches that smugglers use to encourage them, primarily by discussing the situation of "Ana Matzutz and her teenage son, Esduardo" of San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala. Matzutz' husband and daughter completed the perilous journey just days before they were interviewed. I will return to them in a moment.
While the Dallas Morning News focuses initially on the effect of the Trump administration's proposal to have migrants who are seeking asylum at the ports of entry remain in Mexico on smugglers' sales pitches, it touches on many other factors that are elements in the debate on plugging the loopholes that are exploited by migrants and smugglers along the Southwest border that is not occurring on Capitol Hill.
Specifically, the article states:
Trump's policy of dramatically slowing the flow of asylum-seekers into the U.S. — a practice known as "metering" and in coordination with Mexican authorities — means migrants who travel north from here to reach the U.S.-Mexican border must wait in Mexico days, weeks and even months before any chance of processing by U.S. border agents. U.S. officials have said the process is aimed at preventing ports of entry from overflowing.
The U.S. move has led to the latest cat-and-mouse game along the border. Rather than be stuck in large itinerant communities for an undetermined amount of time and face prospects of drug violence, smugglers are telling potential clients here that they will move them — "human cargo" — through barren areas along the border, making it easier to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents without wasting time in cities like Ciudad Juarez.
"By restricting asylum at the ports of entry, smugglers can make the pitch: Don't wait there, we can get you into the U.S. in a matter of hours or days," said Theresa Brown, an immigration expert with the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.
"This is the newest market, if you will, of desperate people who will try to get to the United States, and they [smugglers] are sophisticated in terms of how they are marketing themselves and using what they hear and see from the U.S. government," Brown said.
These paragraphs succinctly, if indirectly, hit the underlying point: That aliens can, in fact, enter the United States quickly and illegally, surrender themselves, make a credible fear claim, and likely be released to live unencumbered lives in this country. And that is the real product that the smugglers are selling. How is that possible? To quote "DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman":
The bottom line is that we have a deeply flawed immigration system, smugglers and traffickers know the flaws well, and they seek to exploit these vulnerabilities in the law, as well as physical vulnerabilities to enter and remain in the country illegally.
Why is that product such a hot commodity? The article explains:
Here in the tiny, picturesque community of San Martin, tucked into the foothills of Chimaltenango in central Guatemala, news of the quick journey that Ana Matzutz's husband and daughter made into the U.S. — an 11-day trip — generated instant buzz.
Smugglers have been boasting openly about their latest feat, how they have again outfoxed U.S. immigration authorities at the border.
The asking price to reach the border is the equivalent of about $6,000, according to several people here, including Dina Muzuzt, 36, Ana's cousin. She's full of curiosity and in disbelief about how easy it was for Ana's husband and daughter to cross into the United States.
"If you have a child, they say you get into the U.S. Is that true?" asked Muzuzt. "Eleven days. Really?"
Not to contradict those smugglers, but in reality it's not "U.S. immigration authorities at the border" who have been "outfoxed".
Talk to any Border Patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley or anywhere else along the Southwest border, and they know exactly what the problem is: the loopholes. Those who have been "outfoxed", wittingly or otherwise, are our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. They spout the same talking points that they've been fed by interest groups, and appear to give no credence whatsoever to the thoughts and opinions of the career professionals (the same U.S. immigration authorities at the border). Why? Good question. Likely because of their feelings about the man whose photo hangs in almost every government office: President Donald Trump.
The Dallas Morning News article discusses the opportunities that poverty, crime, and corruption provide to the smugglers "who make false promises to potential clients that they will get them to the border safely, especially if they travel with a minor and turn them in to U.S. authorities." It continues in disturbing terms:
Prices vary. For instance, young women are charged more because they require more protection from sexual predators. If they can't afford the price, they're ordered to bring condoms with them for the journey, said Luis Demetrio Ayfan Zarceño, executive director at the Guatemala City-based Institute of Social Protection.
He said many Guatemaltecos end up handing over deeds to their land, or owing lifelong debts to the human traffickers and their families. "It's undeniable that the role of smugglers is critical," he added.
Again, these two paragraphs succinctly prove just how depraved smugglers are. First, the possibility of sexual assault is one of the costs of the journey. If you pay extra money, you can protect yourself to some degree from those costs, but if not, you're on your own.
Second, it shows that the economic costs of being smuggled to the United States can mean either losing everything you have, or indenturing yourself indefinitely to pay the criminals who brought you to this country.
The article also discusses the so-called "push" factors that drive migrants to begin with:
"It's a very troubled country that isn't providing to the vast percentage of its population what any government should be providing," said Sue Patterson, a former U.S. Consul General in Antigua. After retiring from the foreign service in 1996 in Guatemala, she started WINGS, a nonprofit that helps rural and indigenous women with reproductive health and family planning.
Additionally, the job market is too small for them, she added. Each year, up to 170,000 Guatemalans enter the workforce, though only some 40,000 jobs are created, according to Guatemalan government statistics. More than 60 percent of residents live in poverty.
As you read those paragraphs, think about the number of so-called "experts" who explain what a boon the unlimited immigration of low-skilled workers to the United States provides — how much they pay in taxes, and how their labor helps to grow the American economy. Now consider how much of a cost that immigration in turn imposes on the sending country. "[A] very troubled country that isn't providing the vast percentage of its population what any government should be providing"? Maybe if it were able to preserve its human capital, the tax base would increase and the government and the economy could provide the necessary goods and services.
Lack of job opportunities? Removing consumers from an area will necessarily slow, or reverse, business development and the jobs that it brings. And, as Dr. Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development stated on "The Ingraham Angle" just last week, "people are our most valuable resource." That is not just true in the United States — it's universal.
Want proof? The Dallas Morning News provides it, possibly inadvertently:
Ana Matzutz and her teenage son, Esduardo, stood across from each other at the family's fruit stand, arguing about their likely migration north.
The other half of their family — father and daughter — made it to the United States just days before in search of opportunity and away from gangs. They await Ana and Esduardo in New Jersey, and Ana, 32, considers it her duty to reunite the family. But Esduardo, 14, wants to finish school and study law.
"I don't want to go," he said. "I want to stay." The long silence that ensues finally breaks.
"And do what?" Ana asked, referring to a law degree. "It's just a paper with no job."
Their struggle, one that Esduardo later confessed will go his mother's way, plays out against a tense standoff 5,000 miles north, one led by an American president who has pledged to thwart illegal immigration and secure the U.S.-Mexico border by building a wall.
Say what you want about lawyers, but their work is crucial to the rule of law and economic development. Want to make sure your contract is fair? Hire a lawyer. Starting a business and want to get the right papers filed? Start with a lawyer. Been harmed or wronged by someone else? Think about how many billboards you see for lawyers promising "justice". Want to prosecute criminals? Lawyers are the prosecutors, and also the judges. Esduardo Matzutz likely won't be filling any of those roles in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala.
And remittances, money sent by aliens working in the United States to their families abroad, is a two-edged sword, as the Dallas Morning News makes clear:
Since her husband left, Matzutz said, she and Esduardo have been targeted twice by extortionists who suspect she receives money from her husband.
She said that in January, not long after her husband left, gunmen fired warning shots into the roof of a truck she was in and, along with other passengers, forced her to hand over her money. "They put their hands in your undergarments and bra," she said. "What do we have left when bad people rob us? This is what we live from. This is how we eat."
As an immigration judge, I heard more than a few asylum claims premised on extortion by criminals who were targeting the claimants because those criminals knew that the claimants had family members in the United States, and assumed that therefore they had money. Thus, the cycle of migration and violence feeds upon itself.
Further, it is only logical that those who send remittances must first buy goods and services to support themselves in the United States. That is money that is being spent in this country, in our economy, not in the aliens' home economy.
There are two sides to every story, but in the United States when it relates to migrants crossing the Southwest border, we usually only hear one. Sometimes, however, if you know where to look, a fuller picture begins to develop.