Testimony of Todd Bensman
Senior National Security Fellow, Center for Immigration Studies
Former Manager, Texas Department of Public Safety Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division (2009-2018)
Before the House Freedom Caucus
United States House of Representatives
For a Hearing Titled
“Biden Administration Open Borders Policy and Border Security”
February 1, 2022, 3:00 p.m.
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, thank you for inviting me here to discuss the historic mass migration crisis that has stricken the United States. What has happened to the southern border is not only history-making in scope but portends lasting, long-term second, third, and fourth-order implications for American citizens. Therefore, it profoundly qualifies for a broader comprehension and public discussion as to how it happened and why, and the ways to address it.
During its first year and now into its second, I have interviewed hundreds of the immigrants, most recently an eight-day fact-finding journey to the Guatemala-Mexico border city of Tapachula. From my vantage point, I can confidently report that there is but one root cause that they — the immigrating foreign nationals — most often cite for coming now: It is only that President Joe Biden opened the American southern border wide to them. They see, over their cell phone social media, that many hundreds of thousands who have gone before secured quick releases and resettlement in America — and decide to also gamble huge smuggling fee investments that criminal smuggling gangs will get them in to stay, too.
With such an enticing, motivating return on smuggling investment, no thinking person should wonder why this global migration hit the all-time national record of 1.97 million Border Patrol apprehensions in a single year, with probably 500,000 more “got-aways”.
But the caucus should also know that non-profit advocacy groups and, more notably, the United Nations, appear to be working side-by-side with the criminal smuggling organizations on the same mission.
United Nations agencies such as the International Office of Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are providing hard cash, food, shelter, and legal services all along the migrant trails. This materially facilitates journeys that everyone involved very well knows, despite any protestations to the contrary, always lead to an illegal American border crossing.
In whatever small or large way, the United Nations and the nonprofits it funnels money to can reasonably be said to contribute to the current mass migration crisis.
I found my first clue on a Rio Grande riverbank on the Mexican side: a discarded UNHCR-stamped booklet advising in great detail how migrants can and should travel north with the greatest chance of safety and success. Later, in Reynosa, Mexico, I witnessed the United Nations grantee, the IOM, hand out cash debit cards to migrants in long, snaking lines. The workers handing them out said they give $400 every 15 days to families of four, renewable every two weeks.
The UN tells me only the most vulnerable get this cash. But in Reynosa and again most recently in Tapachula, Mexico, where I saw the long lines at the UNHCR office, nothing about them indicated acute vulnerability. They were regular family units of the sort crossing by the tens of thousands now. Some showed me their debit cards there, too, and said were it not for this money they might have to leave the migrant trail and go home.
Further inquiry showed the cards are just part of a vast and sharply escalating UN program called “Cash-Based Interventions” all along the migrant trail through Latin America.
According to the UN documents and migrants, these include the unrestricted, unconditionally useable plastic cash cards and also cash-filled envelopes in some areas, money transfers for lodging, pharmaceutical prescriptions, and for something called “movement assistance”, which means transportation to move forward when camps empty and reform farther north.
Credible reporting shows that the UN is providing these forms of assistance all along the migrant trail, from South America to Texas. On a Cucuta to Bogota Colombia segment, the UN was seen handing out food, clothing, and necessities worth an estimated $200 to $300 a day per migrant.
And then there’s important non-cash assistance keeping migrants on the U.S.-bound trail.
In Tapachula, approval for Mexican asylum these days is important for permission to move legally beyond the southern provinces — always to the U.S. border, of course. But many coming in from Guatemala innocently tell Mexican immigration they’re going for U.S. jobs, which is not an eligible asylum claim, and get denied.
But I found a UN-funded solution recently. The manager of a UN-funded migrant advocacy center told me a full-time staff of certified psychologists helps these migrants recover “repressed memories” of more eligible government persecution. This manager told me his group also trains migrants on the front end of the process how to pass muster with Mexican asylum interviewers the first time around.
He said these operations produce a 90 percent success rate for thousands a year. Other UN-funded psychologists offer what sounds like similar work. If this is all true, the UNHCR in Mexico has found another way to keep thousands more on the trail over the American border.
Many can and will defend this UN assistance as lifesaving, but others who learn of it reasonably interpret it as material support for mass illegal migration.
However Americans interpret UN assistance in the new context of a historic mass migration event, public debate in the American square is necessary because the United States is the UN’s largest donor. In 2019, the last year in which expenditures are fully known, the executive branch and Congress separately allocated $11 billion, $5.5 billion of which filled accounts that fund migration and refugee support activities, Congressional Research Services recently reported.
It’s unclear what the U.S. will contribute in 2022. The Biden administration proposes $3.7 billion, and it remains to be seen what Congress will want to appropriate separately.