Authorities have admitted this week that a number of people associated with the Central American “migrant caravan”, which recently arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, have crossed into the U.S. illegally. A pregnant woman and a number of young children were detected entering the U.S.
They entered through a canyon that authorities have described as a dangerous haven for drug and human smuggling. They are also said to have climbed over top of a scrap-metal border fence which has fallen into disrepair near the San Ysidro port of entry. Although no information on the total number of illegal entrants has been released, and we do not know what became of them, this is still a very troubling development.
Many members of the migrant caravan are expected to apply for asylum in the U.S., but it seems some members are already breezing on in without waiting for permission. The ability of anyone, even pregnant women and toddlers, to enter our nation without waiting for the appropriate clearances first, should deeply trouble our leaders.
There are already generous legal procedures in place to welcome those who are willing to wait for asylum. If migrants can prove that they meet the legal requirements to enter the U.S. as refugees, they are allowed to enter. But the process must be undertaken methodically, carefully, and legally, in order to avoid fraud and keep criminal elements from using the refugee system to enter the country under false pretenses.
But because the asylum process takes time, and because it tends to weed out those who cannot prove their refugee status, human traffickers and criminals tend to subvert the process to their own ends. They redirect asylum seekers and ferry them across the border illegally.
These traffickers, often called “coyotes”, bring over both legitimate asylum seekers (who, by entering illegally, lose their right to go through the asylum process and can therefore undergo further misfortune and difficulty as a result) along with illegitimate parties who are coming over for more nefarious purposes.
Unless the government takes steps to secure the border fully, it is likely that “coyotes” and human traffickers will continue to make a profit off of vulnerable people. These human-smugglers encourage those who may be legally allowed to register as asylum seekers to circumvent the law, offering border-crossing services in exchange for money. Not knowing any better, many take the coyotes up on their offers, and become criminals themselves in the process.
The government must secure the border, and crack down on these criminal human-traffickers, who encourage naive innocents to break the laws in order to profit off of them in the process. Many who surrender themselves into the hands of the coyotes end up being imprisoned and sold as prostitutes or slave laborers.
Congress must find money in the budget to secure America’s borders, in order to reduce this problem and redirect desperate asylum seekers through the proper legal channels. Our porous border creates a market for human smuggling, and creates an incentive for illegal border-crossings and dealings with human traffickers.
If, in place of an aging scrap-heap, America had a solid network of walls, fences, and surveillance equipment defending our border, these kinds of illegal crossings might be prevented. Both the hard-bitten criminals and the naive refugees might be diverted. Refugees would have to go through the proper protocols and receive the right aid and treatment, and criminals would be deterred from entering our country at all.
The fact that our border is so vulnerable at the moment only creates trouble for the U.S. We must have a strong, impermeable border in order to offer asylum to those in need. Otherwise the asylum system will only serve to draw the vulnerable into the hands of human traffickers and other sorts of dangerous criminals.