OpinionTrending Commentary

Defund the Cartels

After a tractor-trailer packed with more than 60 migrants was found abandoned in San Antonio, reporters pressed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for a reaction. As of this writing, 53 have been declared dead.

En route to Madrid with President Joe Biden, Jean-Pierre rightly called the awful story “absolutely horrific and heartbreaking.” She then added, “The border is closed, which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks.”

On the other side of the political aisle, Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, blamed Biden’s “open border policies” for the awful toll.

These two radically different views on the border represent the national divide, but no one should overlook criminal cartels’ ruthless treatment of vulnerable people.

In essence, Jean-Pierre was putting the administration’s situation on President Donald Trump’s March 2020 decision to seal the border under Title 42, ostensibly to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

After he took office, Biden tried to lift Title 42, but a federal judge issued a ruling that required the administration to enforce the policy.

So even though he may not want to, Biden essentially has been ordered to enforce border law.

I would argue that his very reluctance sends a signal to wannabe Americans that if they cross the border illegally and they’re not caught, they could stay for years.

And if they are caught, they can try again.

According to the American Immigration Council, 56% of people encountered by the Border Patrol during Biden’s first year in office were expelled under Title 42.

As a result, the Council found, “Title 42 has increased border crossings in large part by creating a situation where many people expelled back to Mexico make at least one additional attempt to cross the border.”

Apparently illegal entries are an if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed kind of thing.

The American Immigration Council also noted that the majority of families that arrived in the United States in 2021 were able to stay in the country while they seek asylum. That’s another incentive to flout the law.

“They’ve released 1 million illegal aliens into the U.S. since Inauguration Day,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the pro-enforcement Center for Immigration Studies, told me. “And yet there are still some border controls. So it’s not that the border is open; it’s open-ish.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Politico that the trailer deaths could present a “Uvalde moment,” a reference to the bipartisan compromise that passed after the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting.

I don’t think so.

The U.S. Citizenship Act, which Biden sent to Congress, would open the path to citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally on or before of Jan. 1, 2021. The Democratic House and Senate haven’t moved it.

Jan. 1, 2021 — that makes it sound like there’s no incentive to come here illegally. But really, its passage would signal to the world that those who didn’t make it by that deadline probably can cross the border illegally and wait out the 2021 they defied.

I appreciate why they want to be Americans, so much so that some would put their lives in peril by making a dangerous crossing.

The best way to prevent more such tragedies is to send the message that in the long run, paying human smugglers won’t pay off.

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Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute's Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Contact her at dsaunders@discovery.org.

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