The Untold Chapter of the Border Crisis

The ones who got away

By Andrew R. Arthur on March 28, 2019

Many of my posts lately have focused on the tens of thousands of aliens who, this fiscal year alone, have been apprehended entering illegally along the Southwest border. The March 26, 2019, edition of the Epoch Times reports on the untold chapter of that story: the estimated 25,000 aliens who managed to evade apprehension after entering illegally through just one section of the Texas border.

As that article states:

The Rio Grande Valley in southeast Texas has led the nation in illegal border crossings since 2013, and that shows no sign of abating. So far this fiscal year, Border Patrol has apprehended more than 120,000 illegal border-crossers in the sector.

But it's the ones they don't catch that no one is talking about, said Raul Ortiz, deputy chief Border Patrol agent for the Rio Grande Valley sector.

Ortiz said at least 25,000 illegal aliens have evaded Border Patrol so far this fiscal year in the sector, which shares 320 miles of the 2,000-mile international border with Mexico.

As I have explained previously, loopholes in the law (including the astoundingly low credible-fear standard) encourage aliens to cross the border illegally to turn themselves in to the first law-enforcement officer they encounter, safe in the knowledge that they will likely be quickly released due to resource constraints. The fact that an estimated 25,000 others have opted (and been able) to evade capture raises serious concerns about the intentions of those individuals.

More likely than not, the vast majority are simply single adult males who are not able to take advantage of the Flores and TVPRA loopholes, which all but ensure quick release from custody. Some proportion of those individuals, however, are likely illegal reentrants, that is aliens who have been deported previously and have reentered illegally. Those individuals are priorities for detention, and therefore are eager to evade apprehension.

Some proportion of those individuals, in turn, likely have criminal records that brought them to the attention of the immigration authorities to begin with. Remember, under the Obama administration's so-called "removal priorities", most aliens who did not have significant criminal records who were illegally present in the United States were never removed, or even placed into proceedings, at all, as my colleague Dan Cadman explained:

The problem is that in many ways, "Revise Removal Priorities" is an inapt title for what the government is doing here — it's not so much redefining priorities toward whom to arrest and charge; rather, it's about redefining who is out of bounds for immigration agents, and therefore outside enforcement of the immigration laws under this administration.

For instance, to fit into that portion of priority two relating to misdemeanants, aliens pretty much must have committed three unrelated misdemeanors. By this time, they appear to be recidivists, and one wonders how many felonies they will also have committed, but not gotten caught at.

Similarly, enforcement officers are told to steer away from run-of-the-mill illegal aliens, unless they are "new immigration violators" meaning someone who entered on or after January 14 of this year. That's pretty much most everyone among the 12 or 13 million illegal aliens in the United States.

Respectfully, it is not the fault of the Border Patrol that those 25,000 aliens were able to enter illegally. Border Patrol agents, and all the employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as a whole, have been stretched to the breaking point, as that Epoch Times article makes clear:

"The fact that we cannot detain is creating a pull factor," [Border Patrol Chief Carla] Provost said on March 20. She said the large numbers of family units crossing illegally are driving the humanitarian crisis.

"It's a humanitarian crisis and then, therefore, that humanitarian crisis is impacting border security, too. So it's creating a border security crisis because all my men and women are spending their time caring for the individuals that are in our custody," she said. "It pulls them away from the border security mission. We don't have enough resources to deal with both."

Ortiz said about 30 percent of the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol agents' time is spent on the humanitarian issue.

"What we would like to get back to is our border security mission set. We've certainly got to close the policy gaps that exist, so we can focus on the narcotics and the alien smuggling that is actually happening here on the border," Ortiz said.

In addition to tens of thousands of illegal entrants, the border crisis, and the effect it is having on CBP resources, has other implications that touch every community in the United States:

[Ortiz] said the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol has already intercepted 73,000 pounds of drugs between ports of entry so far this fiscal year.

"When you look at our corridor from Del Rio all the way to Rio Grande Valley, we account for about 53 percent of all the narcotics that are seized," Ortiz said.

[National Border Patrol Council President Brandon] Judd said America's opioid crisis has been fueled by the border crisis, with the majority of drugs coming in through the southwest border.

"We're dealing with a humanitarian crisis, make no mistake. But, we're also dealing with a drug crisis that we've never dealt with before. We have more deaths in the United States now from illicit, illegal drugs, and those drugs are coming across the border," Judd said.

"And if we don't put our heads around the whole thing, we're going to be in trouble."

Aliens who are smuggling drugs into the United States are not able to take advantage of the loopholes available to family units and unaccompanied alien children, and therefore are also likely to be included in the 25,000 aliens who evaded capture in the Rio Grande Valley. Of course, if they evaded capture, the drugs they were carrying made their way into this country.

Again, the Epoch Times article is just a snapshot of what is transpiring along just over 16 percent of the U.S. border. And some of that border is guarded by infrastructure, such as fences, levees, and walls, which act as force-multipliers for the limited number of Border Patrol agents who are charged with preventing the entry of illegal migrants and illicit narcotics. Roma, Texas, the dateline for that article is not guarded by infrastructure, as my August 22, 2017, post "View of the Border from the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio" makes clear. As I noted:

The Texas Tribune describes Roma as a "Smuggler's Paradise", and it is easy to see why. As the town's website notes: "In November 1993, the 9-square block area around Roma Plaza was designated a National Historic Landmark District, the highest designation for historic properties in the U.S." Many of the buildings, however, are largely in a state somewhere between disrepair and collapse.

A bluff at the far end of the plaza overlooks the Mexican city of Ciudad Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas, which is only about 200 feet across the river.

A winding path leads down the hillside to the banks of the river itself, and the trail is littered with cast-off shirts, pants, hats, and underwear from prior entrants.

A row of small houses line[s] the bank on the American side, and an old artist washing his hands in his outdoor sink did not even look up as I passed his property, suggesting that visitors down to (and up from) the water were not uncommon.

On the Ciudad Miguel Alemán side of the river, two people sat on a bench and kept a steady watch at the far bank. Workers on the Mexican side were cutting the small stand of carrizo cane that was growing on the shore. I was told that environmental laws in Mexico do not inhibit eradication of border vegetation, and that the Mexican government cuts the cane to deny cover to smugglers.

In addition to the proximity of this city to the shore, a small island covered in thick vegetation sits in the middle of the river down from the bluff, limiting the distance for smugglers to the U.S. side of the river even more, and providing them with even more cover.

If I were going to enter the United States illegally, with or without illicit narcotics, Roma is where I would head. For that reason, it is an area that would benefit from the infrastructure that President Trump has declared a national emergency to build. That states and localities are opposing that effort, as the Washington Post has reported, makes no sense, and shows a lack of understanding of the national implications of the situation along the border.

Notable in that article from the Washington Post is the following:

"El Pasoans and fronterizos across the country know that there is no national emergency," said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, referring to residents who live near the border. "Instead, this administration has manufactured a crisis that has used their communities as Ground Zero to implement President Trump's cruel policies toward immigrants and asylum-seeking children and families."

With due respect to Rep. Escobar, we're all fronterizos now, and we're all facing a national emergency.