As Democrats and Republicans prepare to move on immigration reform, so too are the drug cartels and human traffickers that prosper from smuggling thousands of people across the southern border every month, sources said.
Federal law enforcement officials told TheBlaze that traffickers are moving whole families, including young children, through the southern U.S. border and that many are even turning themselves in to border authorities without fear of deportation, with the hope that new immigration reform will keep them in the United States.
Law enforcement officials say they are left with their hands tied, unable to enforce current laws, and that the push by lawmakers to deliver what they say is an amnesty plan this year is contributing to the ongoing dangers presented by the nearly 2,000-mile U.S. border with Mexico.
“Right now, entire families — groups — show up at the border and turn themselves in,” said a Department of Homeland Security official who works along the Arizona border with Mexico. “It’s only getting worse. They bring their children with them and they know they will not be turned back — the majority are given a free ride into the U.S. This is out of control and passing immigration reform without enforcing current laws will make it worse, not better.”
Human smugglers are using the “promise of immigration reform” among those desperate to immigrate to the U.S. from overseas, a Texas Border Patrol agent said.
Many illegal migrant workers “are trying to find a way into the United States before the amnesty and many with their children,” said Yoli, an immigrant from Honduras working in Washington, D.C. She declined to give her last name out of concern for her legal status.
“We are here working but there are many people without any place to go or hope,” she said. “Many people are trying to come in before the amnesty but the traffickers are not always good, many of them are dangerous people.”
U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials who spoke with TheBlaze said it’s difficult to put a number on how many people are trafficked into the United States when the numbers are based on those taken into custody. The actual number of those who made it in without law enforcement’s knowledge is suspected to be much higher.
ICE officials in Arizona contacted by TheBlaze did not return phone calls for comment.
It’s not just federal law enforcement officials crying foul over a lack of government enforcement. A court order issued Dec. 13 by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanon in Texas accused the U.S. government of aiding and abetting human traffickers from El Salvador and Mexico when federal officers helped accomplish the smuggler’s mission by delivering a child they detained at the border to her illegal immigrant mother in Virginia.
The unnamed El Salvadorian girl, 12, referred to in the court order as Y.P.S., traveled with unknown smugglers after her mother agreed to pay the drug cartel traffickers $8,500, including a $6,000 upfront deposit, to have her brought to the U.S. The child was taken through a smuggling route that ended at a Texas checkpoint when federal officers uncovered the smuggling ring. Despite the violation of federal law, the Department of Homeland Security delivered the girl to her mother who is living illegally in Virginia. No charges were filed against the mother and neither were deported.
“This court is quite concerned with the apparent policy of the Department of Homeland Security of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating border security of the United States,” Hanen said in his order. “The DHS is rewarding criminal conduct instead of enforcing current laws … More troubling, the DHS is encouraging parents to seriously jeopardize the safety of their children … The DHS should enforce the laws of the United States — not break them.”
House Republicans are expected to draft an outline detailing their position on immigration reform and what to do with the estimated more than 12 million people living in the country illegally during their three-day retreat this week.
The provisions are expected to include stronger border security laws, “but we don’t enforce current laws and in fact we’re asked to break those laws when our ICE officers are kept from doing their jobs,” Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, the union that represents ICE officers, told TheBlaze.
“Why pass new ones if we’re not enforcing the current laws?” he added.
The union, which represents more than 7,500 officers and support staff, believes a reform bill will only lead to an increase in illegal immigration, fraud and a growing entitlement system that bleeds tax payer dollars.
A Border Patrol agent who works along the Texas border observed: “If we don’t follow the rules now, what makes anyone think we’re going to follow them after a new amnesty is passed.”