Over the last three years, nearly eight million U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encounters with illegal immigrants have occurred. Out of these encounters, 49% occurred in Texas. This is a total of 3.9 million encounters within the borders of Texas or roughly 1.3 million encounters per year over the last three-year period. To put this in perspective, there were only 296,452 U.S. CBP encounters in Texas in 2020. This rapid shift in the number of encounters is indicative of changes in policy that have encouraged illegal immigration to the United States through the Texas border.
Throughout President Biden’s 2020 campaign, he referred to the Trump Administration’s border policy as something that is “dangerous, inhuman, and goes against everything we [Americans] stand for as a nation of immigrants.” This rhetoric led to large groups of immigrants attempting to enter the US southern border illegally immediately upon Biden’s Inauguration. Some of those illegal immigrants went as far as personally thanking Joe Biden for his support.
Advocating open borders in any capacity incentivizes individuals from other nations to take the perilous journey to the United States through Southern and Central America. This journey claims an unknown number of lives with at least 853 having died between the US-Mexico border within the last year. These deaths, however, only encapsulate the bodies found by the US Border Patrol. They do not include some of the most dangerous parts of the journey, such as the Darien Gap. This region of rainforest is one of the first of many obstacles that migrants from South American countries must face. It is a 60-mile roadless region of dense rainforest consisting of not only a hostile environment but also criminal groups and drug cartels. In 2022, there were at least thirty-six recorded deaths in this region, which is a conservative estimate considering there is no formal governing body in this area and many bodies are left behind as a result of the terrain and lack of empathy by coyotes.
While it is difficult to determine the total number of deaths that occur on an annual basis in the journey to the United States, the frequency of deaths recorded through US Border Patrol Data is instructive. Throughout the Trump Administration, the average annual migrant death count at the US Border was 282. The lowest number of recorded deaths since 1998 was 247 in 2020. Since the inauguration of Joe Biden, there has been a 245% increase in deaths in a two-year period. One of the most horrific instances of migrant deaths in recent memory occurred in San Antonio when fifty-one migrants were found dead after being abandoned in a tractor-trailer in the Texas summer heat. The prospect of death is not the only danger that migrants face. In many cases, the survivors of the journey are subject to equally gruesome fates. This includes indentured servitude, forced labor, and sex trafficking i.e. modern-day slavery.
The correlation between the reversal of Trump-Era Immigration Policies and the increase in CBP contacts and instances of death is striking. The suffering and plight of illegal immigrants by itself is enough to showcase how soft border security is anything but empathetic, however, it excludes other real costs of weak border security: costs to American citizens and Texans. These include the opioid and fentanyl crisis, its effects on employment and wages, and the redirection of resources away from populations of U.S. Citizens that are in need.
The policy of the Biden administration and of Democrats is not empathetic. Rather, it causes real harm to both migrants and Texans. Since the federal government refuses to secure Texas’ border, it is imperative that the Texas Legislature pass sound policy to discourage illegal immigration and reduce the effects that bad federal policy has on Texans. During the third and fourth called special sessions the Governor has called upon the legislature to pass legislation that reduces and impedes illegal immigration by:
1. Creating a criminal offense for illegal entry into the state.
2. Authorizing licensed peace officers to remove illegal immigrants from Texas.
3. Increasing the penalties for smuggling of persons or the operation of a stash house.
4. Providing more funding for the construction, operation, and maintenance of border barrier infrastructure.
Of these policy prescriptions, the legislature has already passed a bill to increase penalties related to the smuggling of persons and operating a stash house through Senate Bill 4 in the third special session. The passage of this bill alone will help reduce the death and sex trafficking associated with the border crisis. The passage of the other priorities will further pursue this goal. Policies like those being debated in the fourth special session will reduce illegal immigration and the suffering associated with it. This is what empathetic policy looks like.