The American Conservative, July 31, 2023
Three cheers for Governor Greg Abbott’s recent efforts to halt the flow of illegal migrants into Texas by placing floating barriers in the Rio Grande. On behalf of his state and the entire country, the Texas governor is desperately fighting open-border radicals in the Biden administration and the Mexican government. The unlawful migrant diaspora intentionally sparked by President Joe Biden is fundamentally disrupting both countries and feeding Mexican criminal cartels more opportunities than ever before for illicit profits and human exploitation.
It was the candidate Biden in the 2020 campaign who recklessly set these dangerous human waves of migration into motion; he personally bears the responsibility for this policy folly, which will doubtless be his main presidential legacy. Today, Biden officials make token calls for unlawful migrants to use the so-called new “legal pathways” that the administration has dubiously cobbled together, but the reality is that all unauthorized arrivals on the southern border are still admitted—and continue to come.
Statistics vary, but nobody disputes that the vast movement of clandestine migrants, urged by candidate Biden to “surge” to the U.S. southern border, is producing billions in new criminal cartel profits. Even President Biden’s Department of Homeland Security estimates that the human blood money paid to get across the U.S. southern border has grown from about $500 million in 2018 to an incredible $13 billion in 2022.
Meanwhile, south of the border, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), in step with Biden, has denounced Governor Abbott for engaging in “very vulgar publicity stunts” to fool the American people. In rejecting the right of the U.S. to defend its frontiers, AMLO quotes biblical scripture as ordaining an eternal right for migrants to cross any borders, anywhere, in search of a better way of life.
These comments are bizarre even by AMLO’s standards, and for good measure he urged Mexicans in the United States, particularly in Texas, to vote against Abbott and Republican legislators who support the governor’s border-security measures. Standing in front of his banner honoring Pancho Villa, El Señor Presidente clearly sees no irony in his constant demand that foreign critics, particularly Americans, not voice una palabra of opposition to his policies, while he is free to constantly instruct Washington on everything from managing Cuba diplomacy to outwitting conservatives; and now he is regularly advising American citizens of Mexican heritage in Gringolandia on how to vote.
Only strong diplomacy, along the lines exercised by the Trump administration, can push AMLO in another direction and bring sanity and security back to U.S.-Mexican relations. With Biden and Lopez Obrador paired, however, facilitating illegal immigration has become the heart of our bilateral security policy.
Of course, Lopez Obrador’s comments also reflect a long-standing unofficial attitude that favors a porous border to enable Mexicans easy clandestine entry into the United States. It is doubtful that AMLO fully appreciates, however, that Mexicans clandestinely entering the U.S. have been falling steadily for years, down from over 90 percent two decades ago to a figure that fluctuates in the last couple of years between 20 and 33 percent. Most migrants today are third-country nationals that many Mexicans wish would stay home.
It is beyond the policy imagination of Lopez Obrador to grasp how the constant furtive flows of hundreds of thousands of migrants across his country are part of Mexico’s own epic rule-of-law chaos. While Lopez Obrador may romantically believe—as does his counterpart in the White House – this clandestine human movement is sacrosanct, a noble human search for a better life. But unlawful migration is a brutal game, full of criminal bargains, and enlightened modern leaders should try to discourage it.
Countless stories of abuse from the Darien Gap jungles to Texas ranches document the destruction. The policies of Biden and Lopez Obrador deserve not only the scorn of border-security conservatives, but also of human rights advocates.
“Irregular,” which is to say unlawful, immigration into Mexico continues to increase dramatically. The Mexican government measures encounter “events” with irregular migrants, which officials concede grew by 44 percent from 2021 to 2022. Holders of Mexican visas have little more protection than border jumpers.
Mostly undocumented and some not speaking Spanish, these migrants are basically hiding out on the margins of Mexico’s poorer communities, often overwhelming border towns, reducing health standards and straining sanitation capacities and social services. Unable to work lawfully to finance their movement, some pilfer, steal, and disrupt normal life in their desperation to survive.
They are also fodder for exploitation. Many are women or unaccompanied children, who are routinely victimized in crimes ranging from robbery to rape. They are also preyed upon by an array of unethical actors from corrupt local officials and organized scam artists to brutal cartel syndicates, who ultimately control all clandestine entry into the U.S. The fact that both Biden and Lopez Obrador, policymakers, and almost all their allies, turn a blind eye to this human misery they have set in motion is one of today’s great untold stories.
The State Department publishes an annual trafficking in persons (TIP) report on all countries; the report is supposed to expose factors and scenarios, such as corruption and immigration scams, as well as counterproductive official government policies, that cause people to fall victim to human trafficking. The 2022 TIP report on Mexico asserts:
Migrants and asylum seekers in or transiting Mexico are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, including by organized criminal groups; this risk is particularly high for migrants who rely on smugglers. Observers, including Mexican legislators, noted links between violence against women and girls and between women’s disappearances, murders, and trafficking by organized criminal groups. Observers reported potential trafficking cases in substance abuse rehabilitation centers, women’s shelters, and government institutions for people with disabilities, including by organized criminal groups and facility employees. Trafficking-related corruption remains a concern. Some government officials collude with traffickers or participate in trafficking crimes.
Not surprisingly, while the TIP report calls out acts of official corruption in Mexico, it does not dare to condemn Lopez Obrador’s open-border policies for facilitating the entry of over a million undocumented migrants into the country, representing endless targets for human traffickers. Lamentably, most U.S. anti-TIP officials also advocate open borders even knowing illegal migrants are ripe to be trafficked.
It is often useful to read what our enemies report about us. China’s human rights report on America, admittedly a jumble of communist resentments, phony charges of racism, and other cheap attacks, blasts U.S. immigration and human trafficking abuses. The PRC’s Foreign Ministry writes: “In fiscal year 2021 alone, 557 illegal immigrants died along the southern border of the United States.” While the PRC’s overall criticism is confused and propagandistic, the charge that the Biden administration’s immigration policy is causing widespread disruption and death is valid.
Presidential leadership in both the U.S. and Mexico is vulnerable to international condemnation because it recklessly urges and facilitates desperate people to pick up and travel without permission across legal borders. Nailing down comprehensive data on this surreptitious movement, particularly into Mexico and then northward to the U.S., is difficult. Mexican statistics are unreliable and the Biden administration obfuscates the numbers collected by American officials.
Secretary of State Blinken says that 20 million people are on the move in the Americas, a diaspora that doubtless is concentrated on Mexico and the American frontier. For simplicity, and drawing on available DHS data, most analysts document that on the order of 4 million unauthorized migrants have been “encountered” under President Biden’s watch in 2021-22; most of these are temporarily detained by the American border authorities and then released into the country, while others who are uncounted, entering undetected.
Mexican nationals still constitute the largest single group of U.S. Border Patrol encounters, but available statistics also reveal the staggering jumps in third-country citizens both entering Mexico and moving northward. Pew Research Center reported that in 2021 some 63 percent of Border Patrol “encounters,” more than a million migrants, were not Mexicans but third-country nationals—the vast majority, of course, having used Mexico as their platform to enter the U.S. Moreover, the majority of people moving through Mexico, 62 percent, according to a study by Rice University, cited economic reasons when asked why they left their home countries.
Considering recent statistics, the lion’s share of these non-Mexican encounters, not surprisingly, are still attributable to the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras (213,023), Guatemala (231,565), and El Salvador (97,030), a region that continually produces a long-standing illegal flow into Mexico and towards the U.S.
These data are not new, but what is more noteworthy has been the surge from other regions. Comparing available U.S. encounter data across two years, from 2020 to 2022, we see phenomenal growth in furtive migration from nations whose residents hadn't previously appeared in significant numbers on the southern American border. This two-year time period represents the end of the Trump presidency and the start of the Biden administration; while the impact of Covid doubtless pushed the 2020 data downward, the incredible jumps in the 2022 numbers corresponds exactly to Team Biden’s open-border messaging to the world. Here are the regional data on encounters, by nationality, from 2020 and 2022:
From the Caribbean: Cubans (13,410 to 220,908); Venezuela (2,787 to 187,716); Haitians (4,535 to 53,910).
From Central and South America: Nicaraguans (2,291 to 163,876); Brazilians (7,161 to 53,457); Colombians (404 to 125,172); Peruvians (484 to 50,662); Ecuadorans (12,095 to 24,060).
From outside the Americas: Indians (1,120 to 18,308); Turks (109 to 15,455); Ukrainians (93 to 25,364); Romanians (276 to 5,992); Russians (467 to 21,763); Chinese (1,768 to 2,176).
These encounter statistics are incomplete; they do not document many third-country nationals for whom the data are difficult to obtain but for whom concerns exist, such as African and Middle Eastern countries. Nevertheless, these available numbers make a powerful case that Joe Biden’s reckless 2020 public call for a migrant border surge, with the complicity of an irresponsible Mexican president, has encouraged unprecedented and tragically dangerous illegal migration. It has brought about untold human misery and continues to feed the strongest criminal cartels in the Americas.
The need for new U.S. and Mexican presidential leadership has never been greater.