by Robert Romano
Apprehensions on the southern border slowed precipitously in August to 64,006 as illegal immigration was curtailed, the latest data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol shows. Migration is down 55 percent from its peak in May 144,255 as people continue fleeing Central America in droves.
But is it enough? While the numbers remain elevated — Aug. 2019 is almost 19,000 more than Aug. 2018 — the organizers of the caravans, Village Without Borders, remain fully operational throughout Mexico and Central America with the stated purpose of facilitating people to make the dangerous journey north into the U.S. illegally.
As Bustle’s Lani Seelinger reported favorably last October, “They build shelters along the migration routes and organize these caravans…” This could be read as a violation of 22 U.S.C. 7102(11)(B), which prohibits, “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion…”
The group lures migrants to the border with false promises of an easy journey, and then explicitly advocate that the migrants break the law to get into the U.S. In a January interview with NPR, Darling Adalid Mercado, a migrant, stated, “Village Without Borders is an organization that told us to join the caravan, that everything is going to be easy. But then you’re on the road, and it’s really hard, really difficult. They deceive you. They say, we’re going to the Mexico-U.S. border, and we’ll all cross together. But the truth is you can’t do this. It’s illegal. Activists have urged me, come on, Darling; just jump the fence. But it’s better to return to my country because that’s against the law. They’ll punish you. It’s better to wait in line.”
That might be a violation of 22 U.S.C. Section 7102(1), which prohibits “the use or threatened use of a law or legal process, whether administrative, civil, or criminal, in any manner or for any purpose for which the law was not designed, in order to exert pressure on another person to cause that person to take some action or refrain from taking some action.”
So, why allow them to operate at all?
President Trump is authorized by Congress under 22 U.S.C. Section 7108 to sanction human traffickers and could slap economic and financial penalties on Village Without Borders under 50 U.S.C. Section 1702. And to the extent the group operates and raises money in the U.S., the Justice Department could take action that would treat the organization as a human trafficking cartel, and work with Mexican prosecutors to make certain the label sticks on both sides of the border.
What we are seeing on the southern border is a crisis and it is one that is being organized to overwhelm the U.S. southern border and defeat federal immigration laws by exploiting migrants. By the looks of it, 2019 will come in just shy of 1 million apprehensions on the southern border, the greatest influx of migrants in over a decade. But the number could perhaps be small compared to what could be on its way. This could just be the tip of the iceberg if the stepped up enforcement by President Trump and Mexico we are seeing now does not continue.
There already appears to be significant progress being made to bring the numbers back to normal, and comes after a deal President Donald Trump struck with Mexico on June 7 for both countries do much more to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing Mexico from Central America and into the U.S. on the southern border.
That was the agreement that averted the 5 percent tariff by Trump that he threatened on May 30 on goods from Mexico that was set to go into effect on June 10.
The President announced the agreement on Twitter on June 7, stating, “The United States of America has reached a signed agreement with Mexico. The Tariffs scheduled to be implemented by the U.S. on Monday, against Mexico, are hereby indefinitely suspended. Mexico, in turn, has agreed to take strong measures to stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”
According to the text of the joint agreement, “Mexico will take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration, to include the deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border. Mexico is also taking decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks.”
In addition, the U.S. will be expanding the Migrant Protection Protocols, per the agreement, “those crossing the U.S. Southern Border to seek asylum will be rapidly returned to Mexico where they may await the adjudication of their asylum claims… [And,] Mexico will authorize the entrance of all of those individuals for humanitarian reasons, in compliance with its international obligations, while they await the adjudication of their asylum claims.”
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan on Sept. 9 cited the agreement as playing a factor in the 55 percent drop in migration since May, saying Mexico had taken “meaningful and unprecedented steps,” but that “they need to do more.”
Morgan also addressed whether the current drop is a seasonal drop or if U.S. policies are playing a role, noting that the current decrease in migration is far beyond the usual seasonal shift — migration tends to slow down in the summer — noting, “the past 5 years, due to seasonal reasons, we’ve seen, on average, that those numbers drop about 8 percent. So, if you look from, you know, June to July, we saw those numbers drop by 40 percent.”
That is highly significant and while progress is being made, though, the fact migration is still highly elevated tells the American people and Congress that this is still a crisis. President Trump expects that about 500 miles of new wall will be completed by the end of next year, but is that enough? Congress can do more to ensure there are adequate resources to deal with the migration wave, including providing more for barrier construction, increasing the size of the border patrol and ensuring enough facilities to detain people pending their hearings.
Then there is the role that federal courts continue to play in slowing down Trump administration efforts to secure the border. There, the White House still needs favorable rulings on letting asylum seekers wait it out in Mexico pending a hearing — a key tenet of the U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration — and on detaining parents and children together pending hearings.
But Trump is in the driver’s seat and there are actions only he can take as the President including sanctions, and he should consider significant escalation against groups that are facilitating and housing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to make the trip to the border in the first place. This is not humanitarianism, it’s human trafficking, and he can fully label it as such.
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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.