America may be taking its time edging toward a vague idea of normal, but the southern U.S. border is wide open for business.
More than 70,000 illegal immigrants are being detained a month—the most for this period in more than a decade. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees the detention of children, is nearing capacity and has already re-opened its “overflow facilities” (you may remember them as “the cages” just a few years ago).
“We’re seeing the highest February numbers that we’ve ever seen in the history of the [Unaccompanied Alien Child] program,” an HHS official told Axios last week.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control permitted shelters housing children (formerly known as cages) to expand to maximum capacity, abandoning a requirement to stay near 50 percent to inhibit the spread of COVID-19.
All of this is a response to incentives. Immediately upon taking office, Biden ended the Migrant Protection Protocols enacted by his predecessor, which required asylum seekers to wait for their hearings in border facilities in Central America, rather than being released into the interior of the country.
Biden also axed the asylum agreements Trump negotiated with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, which require asylum seekers to remain in the first safe country they enter—the prevailing standard for asylum seekers in the European Union and in Canada.
In their place, Biden has re-implemented the Obama-era process of “catch and release,” where illegal crossers claiming asylum are detained, processed, and released into the interior of the country to await their hearing—which usually takes years.
In other words, the message from the Biden Administration is clear: If you can get into the country, you can stay.
This message is welcome news to the cartels, whose human trafficking industry has taken a hit over the past four years. Hustling migrants illegally across the U.S. border is big business for the criminal enterprises of Central America—very big. In 2019, a RAND Corporation study estimated that cartels reap up to $2.3 billion in annual profits solely from human smuggling, which finances the continued growth of these massive, transnational crime organizations.
As their profits grow, so does their power and sophistication as a trafficking syndicate. Multiple news outlets reported last week that traffickers are now requiring migrants to wear wristbands to keep track of who has paid, and which cartel is responsible for which migrant.
According to reporting by John Daniel Davidson at The Federalist, each wristband has numbers “linked to a database of personal information: name, phone number, destination in the U.S., and information about family members in the country of origin, in case payments are late.” This, apparently, is an effort to correct for the chaos that accompanied the 2019 border surge, where migrants were not sufficiently tracked for payment.
Migrants are chattel to the cartels and treated as such. They are packed into overcrowded trucks and deprived of basic needs. At least a dozen migrants were killed this week in California, in a crash between an over-packed SUV and semi-truck after the SUV drove through a hole in the border fence.
Women and girls are treated even worse. They are raped and abused, left for dead, and tied to rape trees or on mattresses in stash houses. Young girls are given birth control before being sent north with smugglers. The grotesque sexual violence these children will suffer is an accepted transactional cost.
Illegal immigration at the border is not occurring spontaneously. Rather, it is illegal immigration facilitated by a criminal industry operating at a transnational scale. Our border policies encourage all of this. They incentivize and monetize it. There is a direct and undeniable line to be drawn between our U.S. border policies and the billion-dollar, brutal industry of human flesh.
For the Biden Administration to declare this is not a crisis—humanitarian or otherwise—and for congressional Democrats and corporate media to remain largely silent about the same conditions they decried just a year ago, makes a mockery of any attempt at so-called “compassion.”
The same Members of Congress who trumpet passage of the bigoted Equality Act as justice, who line up to support nominees who openly assert that black people are genetically superior to white people, who stand behind corporate America as they paint “Black Lives Matter” on their cheeks while outsourcing their manufacturing to Chinese slaves, cannot be bothered with the human suffering our own laws shepherd into being at the southern border.
As Biden responds to states like Texas and Mississippi—which are beginning to lift some COVID restrictions—by declaring them “Neanderthals,” COVID-positive illegal migrants are being sent into American communities. America’s schools remain shuttered, but the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted for shelters housing migrant children.
Given the number of border crossers already apprehended in the first three months of this year, 2021 is on track to see a worse humanitarian crisis than those witnessed in 2019, and 2014. One somehow doubts Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will again be moved to dress in white and performatively cry in front of the migrant detention centers. But she would have more reason to than ever.