In 2006, a super-majority of Congress passed the Secure Fence Act. It required that no less than 850 miles of double-layer fencing be constructed on our border. But it also codified a sense of purpose and a clearly defined mission for Border Patrol, to which everyone at the time agreed. It required the secretary of homeland security to “take all actions” necessary within 18 months of passage to “achieve and maintain operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States” (emphasis added). What has ever come of this requirement?
Section 2(b) of the bill defined “operational control” as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.”
What is going on today, a long time after the law’s passage, is the opposite of operational control. The cartels have complete operational control over critical population areas around the Rio Grande River, and illegal immigration, more than ever before, is strategically being used by the cartels for smuggling in narcotics, contraband, and dangerous aliens.
The Secure Fence Act passed the Senate 80-19 on September 14, 2006, with support from Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Dianne Feinstein, among other Democrat luminaries. Even while they were pushing for amnesty that very year for those here illegally who had resided in the country for a long time, everyone universally understood that the border had to be secured from new illegal immigration and cartel activities.
How is it that 13 years later, our border is worse than ever, and these very same politicians now believe our Border Patrol exists for the purpose of processing, caring for, and managing a border invasion rather than repelling it? And how is it that even Republicans are incapable of properly messaging the provisions of current law and the authority of any sovereign nation to deny entry and turn back illegal aliens, especially when they are used as weapons by dangerous cartels?
But this radical shift in mindset is not even 13 years old. When the first wave of Central American children began coming to Texas’ Rio Grande Valley in 2014, Obama shut it down within a few months, even though the magnitude of the problem was a fraction of the crisis today.
Here are the key numbers from the crisis in the spring to summer of 2014: The number of apprehensions spiked to over 57,000 in March and then peaked at 68,804 and 66,541 in May and June respectively. There was a big legislative fight and a lot of coverage over the unaccompanied teens being smuggled in over the summer, and by August, the numbers were below 40,000, where they remained more or less until the final months of Obama’s presidency.
Obama’s border supplemental request at the time called for more funding to “repatriate and reintegrate migrants to Central America” and for a media campaign in Central America to “deliver the message that unaccompanied children are not given a permit to stay in the U.S.” They didn’t just talk about more funding for humanitarian amnesty programs.
In a famous interview with George Stephanopoulos on June 26, Obama said very emphatically, “Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”
Rather than virtue-signal over the deaths of migrants and blame them on Border Patrol and ICE, Obama very clearly recognized that their deaths, while tragic, of course, were the result of their own trip and that the way to prevent such tragedy is by not coming in the first place. “Our message absolutely is don’t send your children unaccompanied, on trains or through a bunch of smugglers,” said Obama. “We don’t even know how many of these kids don’t make it, and may have been waylaid into sex trafficking or killed because they fell off a train.”
Fast-forward five years, and we have 10 straight months of 50,000 or more apprehensions and four months of over 100,000, dwarfing the 2014 wave. But it’s worse than just the macro numbers. At the peak of the 2014 wave, the number of family unit apprehensions, which really places a greater strain on Border Patrol, exceeded 12,000 for just two months before being shut down. We have now been at over double that level for 10 consecutive months and, in recent months, over five times that level.
And yet, even Republicans refuse to discuss funding for repatriation. It’s all about the migrants and not concern for Americans, when even Obama had the moral clarity to understand that Americans come first and that to care for migrants, the best recourse is to dissuade them from making the trip. Republicans have no plans to fight for more detention space and deportation funding. They recently passed a bill fueling more catch-and-release, which will pull more agents off the line without a commensurate amount of enforcement funding. They also funded more legal aid for them to litigate their way into the country. And that was considered the conservative bill!
There seems to be a lawyer for every illegal alien desiring to nullify our immigration laws. Why is there nobody in government willing to finally enforce the mandate to “achieve and maintain operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States” and prevent “all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband”?
We were owed that outcome, the outcome any first world nation should expect, 13 years ago. It’s never too late to fulfil the promise.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.