* America’s Asylum Laws & The Border Crisis




In a May 30, 2019 phone briefing with members of the press, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney articulated the following facts:

  • “Over the past 21 days, an average of over 4,500 people [per day] have crossed our border illegally or arrived at ports of entry without documents. In May of 2017, that number was less than 700 a day. The month of May [2019] is on pace to be the highest month in crossings in over 12 years.”
  • “U.S. immigration authorities now have over 80,000 people in custody, a record level that is beyond sustainable capacity with current resources.”
  • “At any given moment, up to 100,000 migrants are transiting Mexico on their way to the U.S. border.”

It is known that more than 31,000 of the illegal border-crossers who were apprehended between 2016 and 2019 had been previously arrested, either in their respective homelands or in the U.S.,, for offenses like assault, battery, domestic violence, burglary, robbery, larceny, driving under the influence, homicide, manslaughter, sexual assault, illegal drug trafficking, illegal weapons trafficking, and illegal entry or re-entry.

Moreover, in fiscal year 2018, U.S. Border Patrol agents seized nearly 480,000 pounds of illicit drugs—most notably marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl—in the open desert regions of the U.S.-Mexico border. This was considerably more than the 370,000 pounds of such drugs that were seized during that same period at official ports of entry between Mexico and the United States.

The numbers cited above speak of a crisis of epic proportions at America’s southern border, where, each and every month, tens of thousands of people from Central America elect to enter the U.S. without a trace of hesitation, as though American immigration laws did not even exist. In most cases, these people are subsequently released with impunity into the U.S. interior, with instructions that they should return to have their cases formally adjudicated on some date in the distant future.

Evolution of the Crisis

From California to Texas, the southern U.S. border separating America from Mexico stretches 1,954 miles. Along that span, there are currently 330 officially recognized ports of entry—about one every six miles or so—where people seeking admission the United States can legally present themselves and have their requests considered. If they wish to apply for asylum—i.e., political protection from a country to which it would allegedly be too dangerous for them to return—they must prove that in their homeland, they faced persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, social-group membership, or political opinions. The pursuit of employment or “a better life” in the United States is not considered sufficient cause for requesting asylum.

Since the fall of 2018, America’s southern border has been increasingly overrun by people crossing into the United States in numbers that dwarf even those that were seen during the Obama years. For the most part, these people have chosen not to present themselves to U.S. authorities at any of the 330 official ports of entry, where they could have accessed food, water, and medical care if necessary. Instead they have chosen to breach the border at locations somewhere between those ports of entry, in the midst of an arid desert, where, as soon as they have planted their feet firmly on the American side of the border with Mexico, they have actively sought out U.S. border authorities, in hopes of getting taken them into custody. Why?

A bit of historical perspective will help us understand. During the last two years of the Obama administration—2015 and 2016—American border agents were apprehending anywhere from about 22,000 to 46,000 illegal border-crossers like these each and every month. Many of these people wished to apply for legal asylum in the U.S., but they generally understood that in most cases they had no legitimate basis for making such an application. While the deportation-order rates for Central Americans seeking asylum in U.S. border states varied widely depending on which immigration judges presided over their cases, the rates in many courts could be quite high—e.g., 96.02% in Houston, 89.67% in Dallas, 89.32% in Harlingen, 74.10% in Los Angeles, and 68.38% in Tucson. In light of these discouraging figures, immigration-law specialist Ilona Bray advised would-be asylees:

“There are many reasons to avoid requesting asylum at the port of entry to the United States. One is that the inspections officers have the power to quickly find you inadmissible and deport you, in which case you will not be allowed to return for five years. This can happen if an inspector believes that you are making a misrepresentation (committing fraud), or misrepresented the truth when you got your visa, or if you do not have the proper travel or visa documents at the time you request entry. This quick deportation procedure is known as ‘summary exclusion.’”

By contrast, if aspiring asylees could somehow manage to sneak into U.S. territory before making their asylum requests, they were unlikely to be sent back to Mexico right away; rather, they stood a good chance of being released into the U.S. interior, along with a notice instructing them to report for a formal asylum hearing at some date in the very distant future, given the massive backlog of cases in American immigration courts. This of course would give such people plenty of time to simply disappear, never again to be seen by U.S. immigration authorities.

After Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House ended in January 2017, the first six calendar months of Donald Trump’s presidency—February through July of 2017—saw the number of migrants crossing illegally into the U.S. dwindle by about 50 percent, to a range of between 12,000 and 19,000 per month. This was largely as a result of Trump’s clearly articulated positions regarding border security and immigration-law enforcement. Just prior to taking office, for instance, Trump had explicitly identified a number of specific border-security policies that he intended to implement. Among the most significant were: the construction of a physical barrier along the southern U.S. border; the termination of “catch-and-release” programs by which illegal border-crossers were routinely set free; the termination of federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” where police and other public-sector employees were barred from notifying the federal government about the presence of illegal aliens residing in their communities; the cancellation of what Trump described as the “unconstitutional executive orders” that former president Obama had enacted to protect illegals from deportation; and the temporary suspension of visas to individuals hailing from countries where “adequate screening [for criminal and terrorist ties] cannot occur.”

But as 2017 progressed, it became increasingly clear that congressional Democrats and activist judges nationwide were passionately committed to obstructing Trump’s every attempt to implement any of these measures. Some examples:

(1) On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that called for the denial of federal grants to sanctuary cities. Democrats loudly condemned this order. Rep. Norma Torres, for instance, described Trump’s action as a “cynical,” “dangerous,” and “ill-conceived” measure whose principal purpose was to “appease the far right at the expense of our [American] values, security, and economic well-being.” Rep. Tony Cardenas denounced Trump’s “unwarranted and misguided” “attack” against the residents of sanctuary cities. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham lamented that Trump’s policy would “turn neighbor against neighbor,” “undermine the efforts of police departments,” and “devastate city budgets and services.” And Rep. Juan Vargas said that such “shameful” and “divisive” measures would “betray our nation’s values.”

In March 2017, thirty-three congressional Democrats sent a letter to President Trump, demanding that he “rescind” his “unconstitutional” executive order. That same year, Democrats voted overwhelmingly against the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” a Republican-sponsored bill that sought to codify Trump’s executive order via the legislative process. And in an effort to counter the intentions of that bill, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois introduced the “Safeguarding Sanctuary Cities Act of 2017,” which stipulated that federal financial assistance could not be denied to any state or local government for reason of its noncompliance with federal immigration authorities. Quigley’s bill drew 52 Democrats as co-sponsors.

(2) In another January 2017 executive order, President Trump called for the construction of a wall to prevent illegal northward migration across the U.S.-Mexico border. But congressional Democrats loudly and unanimously condemned the plan. Rep. Darren Soto, for one, stated that “this wall … will only further escalate the racial divisions and tensions created at the outset of Trump’s campaign.” Rep. Salud Carbajal depicted the proposed wall as “a multi-billion dollar symbol of xenophobia and hate.” And Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said that “building a wall along our southern border will … be a shameful act in front of the international community that is watching us.”

(3) In an effort “to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” President Trump issued a January 25, 2017 executive order temporarily suspending most travel and refugee admissions to the U.S. from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Syria. The order also created what Trump described as an “extreme vetting” process for visitors from those nations. But within three days, federal judge Ann M. Donnelly – who was appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York by President Obama — issued an emergency stay to prevent the removal of any individuals arriving in the United States from the aforementioned countries. On February 3, federal judge James Robart of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) suspending enforcement of Trump’s executive order nationwide. Six days after that, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Robart’s TRO. Immigrant-rights groups, meanwhile, were predictably outraged by Trump’s proposal. As ACLU executive director Anthony Romero lamented: “’Extreme vetting’ is just a euphemism for discriminating against Muslims. Identifying specific countries with Muslim majorities and carving out exceptions for minority religions flies in the face of the constitutional principle that bans the government from either favoring or discriminating against particular religions.”

(4) In February 2017, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency executed a series of raids in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New York City, targeting convicted criminals, gang members, and people who had re-entered the United States after being legally deported. Major Democratic political figures swiftly condemned the operations. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for one, was “troubled by the lack of transparency and potential due process violations surrounding ICE’s most recent enforcement actions.” Rep. Luis Gutierrez complained that “the goal of such policies is to inject fear into immigrant communities, frighten families and children, and drive immigrants farther underground.” And Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said, “No Angeleno should ever have to fear being snatched from their home or separated from their loved ones” in such a raid.

(5) In August 2017, the city of San Francisco, the state of California, and the city of Chicago filed separate lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of a recently instituted policy by which the Trump administration sought to make certain federal grants to U.S. cities contingent upon the recipients agreeing to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The following month, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ordered a preliminary injunction to block the new Trump policy from being implemented in Chicago. Eventually, in April 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld a nationwide injunction against the policy.

(6) On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that in six months, the Trump administration would be rescinding the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which former president Barack Obama had enacted by means of a 2012 executive action preventing the deportation of hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who had first come to the U.S. as minors. Sessions characterized the DACA program as “an unconstitutional exercise of the executive branch.” But no sooner had Sessions made his announcement, than federal judges in San Francisco and New York issued preliminary injunctions requiring the Trump administration to continue renewing DACA permits. Moreover, congressional Democrats rushed to condemn Trump’s plan. Rep. Norma Torres, for instance, characterized it as “a betrayal of American values and a needless attack on thousands of hardworking young people who want nothing more than an opportunity to contribute to this country.” Rep. Albio Sires described “the President’s cruel and reprehensible decision to end DACA” as yet “another manifestation of [his] anti-immigrant rhetoric that has emboldened hatred, racism, and bigotry.” Rep. Salud Carbajal called the action “unconscionable and incompatible with our American values.” And Rep. Adriano de Jesus Espaillat charged that Trump had “declared all-out war on immigrant youth.”

As the obstructionism of congressional Democrats and activist courts grew ever-more obvious, migrants began to cross the U.S. border illegally in much greater numbers. Between August 2017 and February 2018, the number of such illegals who were apprehended in U.S. territory ranged between 20,000 and 30,000 per month, a significant rise from the 12,000-to-19,000 range that had been customary during Trump’s previous six months in office. When the figure reached nearly 40,000 apprehensions in both March and April of 2018, the Trump administration attempted to take action. Specifically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on April 6th announced that the government would thenceforth pursue a “zero-tolerance” policy whereby every adult caught illegally crossing the border—or even attempting to do so—would be subject to criminal prosecution.

In response to this announcement, the Democratic Party launched a vicious propaganda campaign against President Trump and members of his administration, accusing them of mistreating poor, defenseless migrants and their young children in the most abominable ways. Particularly widespread were charges that the administration was pursuing a policy of forced “family separation” whereby youngsters were routinely being “torn” from the arms of their parents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Former Vice President Joe Biden, for one, denounced “this administration’s policies that literally rip babies from the arms of their mothers and fathers” as “one of the darkest moments in our history.” Senator Bernie Sanders, a nominal “Independent” who caucuses entirely with the Democrats, said, “You don’t rip little children away from the arms of their mother.” And Senator Elizabeth Warren told a large crowd of her supporters in Boston: “President Trump seems to think the only way to have immigration rules is [to] rip parents from their families … and to put children in cages.”

Meanwhile, several high-profile Democrats traveled to McAllen, Texas to tour a detention center for some 1,500 migrant boys. Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor who had served as Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration, said that Trump’s use of such detention centers “amounts essentially to state-sponsored child abuse that is traumatizing young children by taking them away from their parents … [and] keeping them in conditions that we wouldn’t want any of our children in.”

In June 2018, some 111 House Democrats signed a letter urging the top two members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to bar the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from funding the enforcement of Trump’s “inhumane” and “misguided” policy of “family separation” at the border.

That same month, Ron Wyden led 37 fellow Senate Democrats as well as Independents Bernie Sanders and Angus King, in sending President Trump a letter demanding that he “rescind” his “unethical, ineffective, and inhumane” border policy because of its “traumatizing impacts” on detainees. One of the Democrat signatories, Senator Jeff Merkley, repeatedly used social media as a platform from which to denounce the Trump administration’s “morally bankrupt and absolutely destructive” use of “child-snatching” as a political “strategy.”

Supplementing these efforts were media outlets nationwide, which disseminated a massive array of stories about, and images of, weeping mothers and children being separated from one another at America’s southern border. One of the more iconic pictures was a Time magazine cover that showed a small girl crying in terror as she looked up at the unsympathetic face of Donald Trump, whose image had been positioned before her. The caption read, “Welcome to America.” Emotional appeals like these were highly successful at putting Republicans on the defensive. Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins told CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday that separating children from their parents was “traumatizing” to the youngsters and “contrary to our values in this country.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “legislation is necessary” because “we don’t want kids to be separated from their parents.” Jeb Bush stated that President Trump “should end this heartless policy.” And First Lady Melania Trump, who rarely issued any public statements on policy matters, said that the U.S. should strive to be a country that “governs with heart.”

The History of “Family Separation”

The highly inflammatory charge that migrant children were being cruelly and heartlessly separated from their parents at the border was the centerpiece of the Democrats’ radical strategy to “crash” America’s immigration system and torpedo in particular President Trump’s efforts to enforce a sound immigration policy. (And the cynical use of these children was illustrated by the fact, as testified to by immigration officers, that many of them were in effect “rented out” to illegal migrants who used them as props in their efforts to get asylum.)

The origins of the so-called “separation” policy dates back to 1985—a time when the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) had jurisdiction over all immigration matters in the United States. That year, a number of activist organizations—the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and National Center for Youth Law—joined the law offices of Streich Lang in filing a class-action lawsuit challenging an INS policy that prevented unaccompanied illegal-alien children from being released to any U.S.-based adults other than their parents or legal guardians. In 1988, Judge Robert Kelleher of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled in favor of these plaintiffs by making it easier to release minors to the care of adults who were not the youngsters’ parents or guardians. In 1990, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Kelleher’s decision and upheld the original INS policy. But in 1991, all eleven judges of the Ninth Circuit Court met en banc and issued a 7-4 decision reversing the three-judge panel’s decision and reaffirming Judge Kelleher’s 1988 position.

In 1992 this same case, known as Reno v. Flores, went to the Supreme Court, which in 1993 voted 7-2 in favor of reversing the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision and restoring the original INS policy from pre-1988. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority: “Where the Government does not intend to punish the child, and where the conditions of Governmental custody are decent and humane, such custody surely does not violate the Constitution.”

Notwithstanding this emphatic decision by the nation’s highest court, immigration activist groups continued to file lawsuits and to apply political pressure aimed at restoring Judge Kelleher’s 1988 standard. Eventually, in 1997, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner—fulfilling the wishes of the Clinton administration—signed a settlement of the Flores case whereby the government agreed that it would thenceforth strive to place unaccompanied alien children in the “least restrictive” setting by releasing them “without unnecessary delay” to—in order of preference—their parents, legal guardians, other adult relatives, or other individuals designated by the parents or guardians.

In 2003, Congress disbanded the INS and transferred the agency’s responsibilities to several entities within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The task of placing alien minors with their parents or other caretakers, however, was assigned to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). But immigrant-rights activists persisted in complaining that the DHS, HHS, and ORR were not adequately complying with the terms of the 1997 Flores settlement. Finally, in 2015, California federal district court judge Dolly Gee, an appointee of President Obama, ruled that because detention centers in Texas had failed to meet the standards laid out in Flores, the Obama administration would now be required to release—within 20 days—all children apprehended while crossing the border illegally, whether or not they were accompanied by an adult. “In other words,” the Center for Immigration Studies explains, “now all minors in detention, whether or not they were with their parents, couldn’t be detained for more than three weeks. This ruling laid the groundwork for the current [policy], in which children are released while their parents can still be detained awaiting hearings—hence, the ‘separation’ of families. The alternative is simply releasing the entire family after three weeks or less.”[1]

These were precisely the same narrow alternatives that were open to the Trump administration in April 2018, when it implemented its new “zero tolerance” policy vis-a-vis illegal entry.

In May and June of 2018, the apprehensions of illegal border-crossers continued to range roughly between 35,000 and 40,000 people per month. The Democratic and media condemnations of President Trump continued apace as well. Finally, on June 20, 2018, Trump, under mounting political pressure not only from Democrats but also from members of his own party, signed an executive order ending the practice of separating children from their parents at the border, while keeping the zero-tolerance policy intact. In other words, it would now be deemed permissible to detain adult migrants and their children together indefinitely. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” said Trump. The president’s order also required the Defense Department to provide and, “if necessary,” construct facilities in which to house and care for the families.

The left was not at all mollified by Trump’s gesture, however. The Southern Poverty Law Center, for one, complained that because the president’s new policy continued to require that migrant families be held in detention centers, it was treating them “like criminals.” Karen Tumlin, director of legal strategy at the National Immigration Law Center, said: “The president doesn’t get any Brownie points for moving from a policy of locking up kids and families separately to a policy of locking them up together. Let’s be clear: Trump is making a crisis of his own creation worse.” And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi charged that President Trump’s executive order merely “seeks to replace one form of child abuse with another” by “pav[ing] the way for the long-term incarceration of families in prison-like conditions.”

An Overwhelmed Immigration Bureaucracy

Notwithstanding President Trump’s stated intentions, in practice it became wholly impossible for the government to keep migrant families together in detention centers for any extended period of time, simply because their numbers were far greater than the capacity of the detention centers to hold them. Thus, as The New York Times would report soon thereafter: “The government has been letting thousands of detained migrants go free each week because it lacks enough beds to hold them in family detention facilities.”

The Times further noted that the migrants, for their part, were quick to learn the loopholes which they could exploit in order to get the most favorable disposition for themselves and their families:

“The majority [of migrants] know to request asylum at the border, either at an official port of entry or when they surrender to border agents shortly after sneaking into the country from Mexico. They know that they are unlikely to remain detained if they travel with a child and that they have a better shot at fending off deportation when they come with a child…. Customs and Border Protection officials believe that the various legal rulings preventing families from being detained have helped solidify the message to smugglers, who roam villages offering to guide people to the United States, that adults who come with a child are protected from deportation.”

“[T]he practical effect,” said yet another New York Times piece, “is that most families are released into the country to await their hearings in immigration court. [But the] courts are so backlogged that it could take months or years for cases to be decided. Some people never show up for court at all.” The Washington Post concurred that illegal Central American migrants were streaming into the U.S. “typically in groups of one parent and one child,” because they understood that “such pairings all but ensure the family will be processed quickly and released from U.S. custody in a matter of days.”

Consequently, in July and August of 2018, apprehensions of illegal border-crossers continued to range between 30,000 and 40,000 per month.

In the summer of 2018 as well, Democrats opened up yet another avenue in their attacks against President Trump and the border-security bureaucracy, now alleging that ICE’s heavy-handedness in dealing with vulnerable migrants was cause for the agency’s abolition. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told CNN’s Chris Cuomo: “I don’t think ICE today is working as intended. I believe that it has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate the criminal justice from the immigration issues.” Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote in a Facebook post, “The President’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious that we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our values.” Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin claimed that “ICE is tearing apart families and ripping the moral fabric of our nation.” And Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon said: “People should be treated with compassion and respect. ICE is simply not doing that. Trump and his administration have made the agency so toxic that it’s time to abolish ICE, and start over.”

In mid-October of 2018, a separate effort to overwhelm America’s border-control apparatus was launched from Central America when a large caravan—composed of several thousand people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—began migrating northward for the declared purpose of defiantly walking across America’s southern border and taking up residence in the United States. The effort was spearheaded by Pueblo Sin Fronteras (PSF, “People Without Borders”) a nonprofit organization whose overriding objective is to “abolish borders” and facilitate the free, unregulated movement of Central American migrants into the United States. In an October 21, 2018 press release, PSF accused President Trump and the United States of using “repressive tactics” to inflict “fear and racism” on the people of Central America. Moreover, the organization demanded that Mexico declare itself a “sanctuary country” with wide-open borders.

Predictably, Congressional Democrats sided with the caravan and suggested that President Trump was trying to exploit a largely inconsequential issue for his own political gain. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for instance, released a joint statement saying: “The president is desperate to change the subject from health care to immigration because he knows that health care is the number one issue Americans care about. Democrats are focused like a laser on health care and will not be diverted.”

Between October 2018 and January 2019, there was a noticeable upsurge in apprehensions of illegals just north of America’s southern border, with an average of 50,398 per month. This figure included, on average, 5,021 unaccompanied children (UAC) as well as 20,382 single adults and 24,994 members of Family Units (FMUs). The fact that the “FMUs” figure was substantially higher than the others, served as evidence of what the Center for Immigration Studies described as “the rapidly growing number of border infiltrators using children as a ticket to release into the interior.” It also served as evidence of a widening “family units” scam, featuring thousands of documented cases of adult migrants falsely claiming to be the parents of the children traveling with them. Clearly, the people of Latin America understood that the loopholes in America’s immigration system could be easily exploited. As Gallup reported in early 2019: “A full 5 million [Latin Americans] who are planning to move in the next 12 months say they are moving to the U.S.”

On January 8, 2019, President Trump attempted to make his case for border security directly to the American people. In an Oval Office address in which he warned of “a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” the president stated, among other things:

  • “Every day, Customs and Border Protection agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them, and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.”
  • “Our Southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs including meth, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone. Ninety percent of which floods across from our southern border.”
  • “In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings.”
  • “[C]hildren are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”
  • “Some have suggested [that] a barrier is immoral. Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is [for] the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.”

Congressional Democrats, however, dismissed Trump’s message as nothing more than an exercise in bigotry and fear-mongering. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, for example, said: “This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accused President Trump of “manufacturing a crisis” by means of “cruel and counterproductive policies” that scapegoated “the women and children at the border” as “a security threat.” Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, tweeted: “The President has manufactured a humanitarian crisis. It is solely Trump’s fault NOT the Democrats.” And Senator Bernie Sanders said in a video statement: “Mr. President, we don’t need to create artificial crises. We have enough real ones.” Sanders further demonstrated his utter contempt for any effort to rein in illegal immigration when, in February 2019, he hired Belen Sisa, an Arizona-based leftwing activist who herself was an illegal alien, as his new new deputy national press secretary.

That same month—February 2019—the total number of illegal aliens apprehended near America’s southern border  shot up to 66,884. This figure included 6,818 UAC, 23,535 single adults, and 36,531 FMUs. The largest increase by far was in the number of FMUs, which was 46% higher than the January figure.

While this was going on, Democrats continued their assault on Trump’d effort to defend America’s southern border. Former House Representative Beto O’Rourke, who soon would be announcing his candidacy for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, said that he would “absolutely” remove an existing stretch of border wall from his hometown of El Paso if he had the authority to do so. “We don’t need another wall,” added O’Rourke. “We don’t need another fence. Walls do not, as the president has claimed, save lives. Walls end lives.”

The steep upward trend in border-area apprehensions continued in March 2019, when the figure reached 92,835, among whom were 8,963 UAC, 30,666 single adults, and 53,206 FMUs. Again, the largest increase by far was in the number of FMUs, which was 126% higher than the February figure. Even as Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan warned that “the system is well beyond capacity and remains at the breaking point,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said: “What [Trump] has done on the border is inhumane and intolerable. He is separating families, children from parents, mothers from babies and locking up people in facilities that are run by for-profit prison companies. It’s an outrage.”

April of 2019 brought more of the same: 99,304 apprehensions that included 8,900 UACs, 31,680 single adults, and an astounding 58,724 FMUs. As the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s CBP Families and Children Care Panel noted in its Final Emergency Interim Report that same month: “By far, the major ‘pull factor’ is the current practice of releasing with a NTA [Notice To Appear in court at a later date] most illegal migrants who bring a child with them.”

In May 2019, the number of apprehensions reached 132,887, among whom were 11,507 UACs, 36,838 single adults, and a previously unimaginable 84,542 FMUs. Noting that “the numbers for May prove the crisis is only getting worse,” U.S. Border Patrol Chief of Law Enforcement Operations Brian Hastings pointed out that as many as 60 percent of all Border Patrol agents were being pulled from their customary law-enforcement duties and shifted into roles where they were providing illegal migrants with housing, food, and transportation.

And how did Democrats respond to this growing catastrophe within America’s immigration system? By doing everything in their power to exacerbate it. Among the most noteworthy Democratic proposals was the notion that American taxpayers should now be required to pay for the healthcare coverage of every illegal alien residing in the United States:

  • When a reporter in May 2019 asked presidential candidate Joe Biden whether illegal immigrants “should be entitled to federal benefits like Medicare [and] Medicaid,” Biden replied: “Look, I think that anyone who is in a situation where they are in need of health care, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented, we have an obligation to see that they are cared for.”
  • When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked presidential candidate Kamala Harris whether she supported granting taxpayer-funded benefits “to people who are in this country illegally,” Harris responded unequivocally: “Let me just be very clear about this. I am opposed to any policy that would deny in our country any human being from access to public safety, public education or public health, period.”
  • Yet another Democratic presidential candidate, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, likewise spoke forcefully in support of guaranteed healthcare coverage for illegals: “You will hear some critics who say we can’t afford to give everyone healthcare. I have a simple answer. It’s not a problem of money from my point of view. There’s plenty of money in this world, there’s plenty of money in this country, it’s just in the wrong hands.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled a “Medicare-for-all” plan that “would cover every U.S. resident” regardless of immigration status; his proposal was backed by such high-profile Democrats as Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren.

In June 2019, the number of apprehensions near America’s southern dropped from 132,887 to just below 95,000. This decline was due, in part, to the normal trend whereby border crossings generally become somewhat less common during the hottest months of summer. It also reflected the Mexican government’s newly implemented policy which made it more difficult for migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to pass through Mexico on their way to the United States—a policy that resulted directly from President Trump’s threat to impose economic sanctions against the Mexican government. It should be noted, however, that while the June figure of roughly 95,000 apprehensions represented a 28% decline from the previous month’s total, it was still nearly three times higher than the 34,089 apprehensions of June 2018.

President Trump, meanwhile, kept trying to find some way to circumvent the Democrats’ uncompromising devotion to open borders. On July 15, 2019, he announced his intent to implement a new policy that would bar most migrants from applying for asylum after illegally crossing America’s southern border, unless they had first been unsuccessful in seeking asylum in one of the “safe” countries that they traversed on their way to the United States. In other words, would-be asylees from El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua would be ineligible for asylum in the U.S. unless they had first applied in Mexico and been rejected. This was in keeping with existing American law.[2]

While Attorney General William Barr maintained the legality of the Trump administration’s move, advocates of open borders immediately rose up against it. “The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country’s legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “This new rule is patently unlawful and we will sue swiftly.” Congressional Democrats, of course, were no less militant. “Unfortunately, this morning, the Trump Administration announced they will seek to undermine our nation’s asylum laws,” wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This cruel and anti-immigrant Administration is overreaching and stacking the deck against asylum seekers by limiting their rights to due process under our laws. This is simply not who we are as a country.”[3]

The Costs of Illegal Immigration

At the federal, state, and local levels, U.S. taxpayers currently shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the education-, medical-, welfare-, and law enforcement-related costs associated with the nation’s estimated 12.5 million illegal aliens and their 4.2 million citizen children (who were born in the United States). According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, this “amounts to a tax burden of approximately $8,075 per illegal alien family member.” By contrast, illegal aliens pay only about $19 billion in federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, and excise taxes annually, meaning that they represent, on balance, a huge financial drain on the United States.

Yet another enormous cost that illegal aliens impose on American society shows up in crime statistics. A Fox News analysis of local, state and federal data found that “illegal immigrants are three times as likely to be convicted of murder as members of the general population and account for far more crimes than their 3.5-percent share of the U.S. population would suggest.” It is estimated, for instance, that 13.6 percent of the people sentenced for all committed crimes in the United States are illegals; among these are 12 percent of murderers and 16 percent of drug traffickers. In 2014, illegals accounted for nearly three-fourths of all federal drug sentences and over one-third of federal sentences overall. And in 2015, ICE released almost 20,000 illegals who had committed a combined 64,000 crimes that included 1,728 assaults, 216 kidnappings, more than 200 homicides, and 12,307 convictions for drunken driving.

Because of its geographic location, the state of Texas is, in the words of The Hill, “an epicenter for illegal immigrant crimes.” A crime analysis conducted by both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Texas law enforcement authorities found that between June 2011 and March 2017, more than 217,000 criminal immigrants had been arrested and incarcerated in Texas alone. These perpetrators had jointly committed nearly 600,000 criminal offenses, including nearly 1,200 homicides, almost 69,000 assaults, nearly 17,000 burglaries, some 700 kidnappings, almost 6,200 sexual assaults, about 69,000 drug offenses, some 8,700 weapons violations, more than 3,800 robberies, and at least 45,000 instances of obstructing police. The DHS confirmed that about two-thirds of these immigrant criminals were in the U.S. illegally at the time of their arrests.


The numbers cited above are staggering. Yet, no matter how stark the evidence that America’s economic and social foundations are buckling under the enormous strains imposed by illegal immigration, Democrats continue to press for policies that would only amplify the destructive effects of those burdens. They are determined to do whatever they can to overwhelm the nation’s border-security bureaucracy to the point of crisis, which in turn would set the stage for a the passage of some type of hollow, face-saving “path-to-citizenship” measure that would give the false appearance of doing something to address the problem.

The Democrats’ ultimate objective is a simple one: to import a massive bloc of new voters who will support their party in overwhelming numbers for generations to come, thereby changing forever the economic and cultural values of American society. This motive was illuminated with crystal clarity by a 2018 Center for American Progress Action Fund memo in which onetime Hillary Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri called on Democrats to aggressively defend former president Obama’s DACA program, which protected hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens from being deported. And why was this so vital to Palmieri? Because those illegals, she explained, represented “a critical component of the Democratic Party’s future electoral success.”

It is well established that a significant majority of immigrants to the United States tend, when they become active politically, to support Democrats. This is particularly true of people from Central America. As Ann Coulter writes in her book Adios America, for instance: “[I]t’s part of Mexican culture to bloc-vote for useless left-wing parties. Despite scandals, corruption, and economic failure, the Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI] ruled Mexico for seventy-one straight years.” All told, approximately 70 percent of Hispanic voters in the U.S. today cast their ballots for Democrats. This is consistent with a Pew Research Center finding that 75 percent of Hispanics in America would prefer a bigger government that provides more taxpayer-funded services—a typically Democratic position—as compared to just 41 percent of the overall U.S. population. An important study by University of Maryland political scientist James Gimpel confirms that increased levels of immigration at the county level are associated with diminished support for the Republican party. This occurs, says Gimpel, not only because of Democrat votes cast by immigrants—many of whom are currently non-citizens and thus cannot vote—but also because of outmigration by natives who dislike the cultural and economic changes that immigration often brings.

  • This essay was published by Discover The Networks in July 2019.

Additional Resources

Unaccompanied Alien Children and the Crisis at the Border
By The Center for Immigration Studies
April 1, 2019

The History of the Flores Settlement
By The Center for Immigration Studies
February 11, 2019

Fake Family Units at the Border
By The Center for Immigration Studies
February 15, 2019

An Incredibly Violent Journey to the United States
By The Center for Immigration Studies
October 25, 2018

Family Unit Apprehensions Soared in FY 2018
By The Center for Immigration Studies
October 24, 2018

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